Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story

ECPAT and Child Rights Group Blast EU States For Wavering On Child Safety Online Legislation

Posted on Dec 5, 2023


4 December 2023

Brussels, Belgium –  A group of child rights’ and survivors’ organisation have plastered ‘missing’ posters outside the Brussels offices of EU states believed to be wavering in their support for historic legislation to prevent and combat all child sexual abuse online, including France, Portugal, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The posters put up by campaigners from the Child Safety ON and ECLAG coalition call on EU leaders to champion laws safeguarding children from all forms of online child sexual abuse, including grooming, emphasizing the crucial aspect of online detection. Time is running out and, without the adoption of a strong Regulation in the coming weeks, children will be left online with no protection once the interim protections expire. 

The poster conveys a powerful call: “MISSING: CHILD SAFETY ONLINE. How many children will be sexually abused before EU leaders act? Vote to detect ALL sexual abuse against children online.” These messages have been posted around Brussels, outside Permanent Representations to the EU believed to be wavering in their support for the Regulation.

Last month, 80 survivors of child sexual abuse and child protection organisations in Europe signed an Open Letter voicing strong concerns on current negotiations in the European Union, which might lead to less child protection online compared to the safeguards in place today. 

According to the Internet Watch Foundation’s 2022 annual report, 60% of reported child sexual abuse material in the world is hosted in an EU Member State.

Compromises adopted by the  European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 14 November 2023 give no legal basis for tech platforms to voluntarily detect grooming and child sexual abuse materials on their services. The proposal would limit detection orders to suspected offenders, significantly reducing the amount of child sexual abuse material detected, reported, and removed. It would also exclude grooming from the scope of detection orders. Child rights organisations warn this represents a step backwards in the protection of children online.

A strong and comprehensive regulation that effectively protects child safety online is supported by 78% of European citizens, according to data from the European Commission. On 6 December, a petition backed by more than 540,000 people, which calls for MEPs and EU Member States to put a stop to online child sexual abuse, will be delivered to the European Parliament. 

Amy Crocker, ECPAT Head of Child Protection and Technology, said: Our collective concern must resonate louder than the silence that endangers children online. A legislative compromise cannot be a child protection compromise; we call on those in power to ensure a stronger, comprehensive regulation that echoes the will of 78% of surveyed European citizens”


Media contact:

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Child Safety ON and the ECLAG Coalition:

The #ChildSafetyOn campaign is led by a coalition of more than 40 child rights organisations who aim to raise awareness of the pressing need to protect children online in our ever developing digital world. The coalition includes the European Child Sexual Abuse Legislation Advocacy Group (ECLAG). The ECLAG coalition is formed of over 60 child rights organisations working across the EU to raise awareness of the pressing need to protect children online in our ever developing digital world. The Steering Group of the coalition is made up of the Brave Movement, ECPAT International, Eurochild, the Internet Watch Foundation, Missing Children Europe, Terre des Hommes International Federation and Thorn.