What you need to know about - The European Parliament and Council’s proposal addressing child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse is a growing danger intensified by the internet and globalisation of communications. It has offline and online forms which are inherently interconnected. The detection and reporting of child sexual abuse material is a key aspect in the prevention of this issue. There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of cases reported to the authorities from just 23 000 in 2010 to over 1 million in 2020. In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the numbers continue to rise. Over 60 % of child sexual abuse material worldwide is hosted on EU servers and more than 90 % of reports come from a single provider, META.
The scale and gravity of the issue clearly calls for an internationally coordinated response from the EU member states. The issue became a priority with the July 2020 EU strategy for a More Effective Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse. At this point in time, there is a temporary exception from the e-Privacy Directive to allow providers to detect and report potential child sexual abuse material to the authorities on a voluntary basis. However, this temporary regulation will expire in 2025. The legislative proposal would replace it and set up a harmonised set of obligations for the providers to address child sexual abuse on their platforms without endangering digital privacy of EU citizens.
The proposed rules focus on prevention of online child sexual abuse. The most important aspect is that all relevant providers would be obligated to regularly conduct risk assessments and introduce mitigating measures, creating safe spaces for children on their platforms. Only if the risks continued to be high, an order to detect and consequently remove or block child sexual abuse material would be introduced to the provider. There is a strong emphasis on safeguards in the process. Providers would be required to use the least intrusive measures available without human intervention and only data necessary to detect abuse would be extracted. The proposal aims to be technologically neutral to avoid falling behind on the innovations in the digital field which is why it does not mention specific technological measures.
At the same time, a new independent EU Centre on Child Sexual Abuse would be created to facilitate the efforts of all parties by acting as a hub of expertise, providing reliable information on identified material and coordinating the support of victims. It would also be receiving and analysing reports from providers to identify erroneous reports and prevent them from reaching law enforcement and swiftly forwarding relevant reports for law enforcement action. The Center would play a crucial role in coordinating preventive measures and supporting member states in fulfilling their responsibilities to keep children safe from abuse.
Currently, the proposal is being negotiated at political and expert levels under the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. The presidency considers the proposed Regulation addressing child sexual abuse as one of its main priorities in home affairs.
Find the new regulation’s proposal with translations to all member state languages at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=COM%3A2022%3A209%3AFIN
Article written by the Presidency of the EUCPN, September 2022