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ECPAT comments on the European Commission’s Proposal to Combat Child Sexual Abuse in the EU

Posted on Sep 13, 2022

BRUSSELS Together with ECPAT members in the EU, we submitted our comment on the latest European Commission’s proposal to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse online in the EU.

We welcome the changes proposed, while also calling for additional clarification and revisions that fully ensure children’s rights are incorporated into the EU digital policies. We support a world where online service providers and the technology tools used to detect, remove, and report child sexual abuse material respect the fundamental rights of all users—children included. 

Read below our priority areas of support and concerns regarding the proposal: 

  • We stress that the best interests of every child should be the primary consideration of this Regulation. 
  • We call on EU policy-makers to involve children in the drafting, implementation and evaluation of the Regulation. 
  • We recall the need to update the definitions of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and solicitation of children for sexual purposes. 
  • We support the strong safeguards put in place by the Regulation to ensure that online service providers and the technology used respect the fundamental rights of all users, including children. We emphasise the primacy of every child’s right to freedom from sexual exploitation and abuse as well as privacy. 
  • We commend the horizontal obligation for all information society services to assess risks and adopt preventive measures to avoid their service being used for child sexual abuse, hence supporting safety by design. 
  • We equally support the new transparency requirements, such as annual public reporting. 
  • We welcome the mandatory use of safe technologies and stress the importance to respond to all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse – ‘known child sexual abuse material’, ‘new child sexual abuse material’ and ‘grooming’. A compromise will mean legislation fails to protect children now and in the future. 
  • The Regulation should ensure a clear transition regime and address gaps. 
  • We urge that the Regulation provides a clear legal basis and the required safeguards for the continuation of voluntary detection of child sexual abuse material as a crucial prevention measure.  
  • The Regulation must ensure a clear legal framework that would allow companies to innovate and refine their detection technologies. 
  • We strongly support the creation of an EU Centre as a vital pillar to fighting CSAM in the EU. We urge greater clarity on the cooperation and integration with the work of the existing ecosystem – including hotlines, victim support services, civil society organisations, and existing regulatory bodies – as well as with Europol, other EU Institutions, national authorities, and international partners. 
  • To ensure the effective independence of the EU Centre, we call for a clear separation of human, logistical, administrative and IT resources from Europol. 
  • We call for robust procedures to ensure the transparency and quality of the data contained in the proposed database of indicators, including by stating minimum standards and processes required to ensure the quality and trustworthiness of the data. 
  • We recommend providing more clarity on the conditions supporting the availability of technology free of charge. 
  • The Regulation must ensure the efficient co-existence between reporting obligations under national, EU and other regional initiatives. 
  • We stress the importance to ensure a harmonised implementation of the Regulation to avoid the emergence of different standards across the EU. 
  • We commend the inclusion of formal support and redress mechanisms for victims of child sexual abuse in the EU. However, the Regulation should acknowledge the rights of non-EU victims who have their abuse spread and hosted by online service providers operating in the EU. 
  • The Regulation should include clearer obligations on the swift removal of child sexual abuse as part of the recognition of victims’ rights in order to limit the potential revictimization. 

 

Read the full ECPAT’s Response to the EC Proposal on Child Sexual Abuse – Open Public Consultation.

 

ECPAT International and its members look forward to further engagement with all EU institutions and stakeholders to turn this legislative process into tangible outcomes for child protection online. 

 

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