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

EU Centre: Why does it matter?

Posted on Oct 29, 2021

Why is it important for EU law enforcement agencies to have access to specialised technologies?

The EU proposes a new new European Centre to combat child sexual abuse on and offline. 

In 2020, the European Union has adopted a new a  “Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse”. This strategy is in place to address sexual abuse in both the offline and the online worlds. 

A core part of this strategy involves establishing a new European Centre (the Centre). Working with the existing ecosystem of child protection bodies, the Centre has ambitions to become a global Centre of Excellence and focal point in combatting child sexual abuse on and offline. The goal is for the Centre to be recognized in terms of gathering in and disseminating evaluated examples of best practices both in terms of preventive measures and support for victims. It should become a driving force in finding new and better ways to support victims, working cooperatively across the current ecosystem of online child protection agencies while being able to act independently, if necessary. 

In addition, the Centre is likely to become an EU focal point in relation to  child sex abuse material, and to play a central role in coordination the exchange of information between law  enforcement agencies and relevant online businesses to prevent and respond to online child sexual exploitation and abuse. 

This matters because currently European law enforcement are highly dependent on the United States for a large proportion of reports of child sexual abuse occuring in and through digital environments. A change in US law or practice could have a massive adverse impact on child protection within Europe. ECPAT International and its European members strongly support the idea of building greater capacity in Europe and this is one of the many priorities ECPAT International’s Project Beacon (learn more about Project Beacon here) is currently advocating for across the EU.

What are the developments for Project Beacon in 2022?

Since we wrote this article, there have been inevitably developments in terms of EU law and policy that tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse. On 14 July 2021, the temporary derogation to the E-Privacy Directive was published in the official journal of the EU [1]. This directive maintains the status quo for what concerns the proactive use of technology to detect CSAM by online service providers in the EU. The E-privacy Directive has a timeline of three years, and it is essential that longer-term legislation to tackle online child sexual abuse and exploitation is introduced by 13 July 2024.

For this reason, since 2021, ECPAT International is advocating, through Project Beacon, to ensure child protection from sexual abuse and exploitation within the European Digital Services Act that is going to be finalised between April and May 2022- Additionally, Project Beacon advocates for a more comprehensive EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse.

ECPAT continues to work in close partnership with organisations across the EU and globally to advocate for child protection in digital environments. This means leveraging and sharing collective expertise, networks, and voices. ECPAT believes that protecting children from exploitation and abuse online is both possible and essential, and will continue to fight for the best outcomes for children in all relevant EU and international processes.

[1] Regulation (EU) 2021/1232 on a temporary derogation from certain provisions of Directive 2002/58/EC as regards the use of technologies by providers of number-independent interpersonal communications services for the processing of personal and other data for the purpose of combating online child sexual abuse.


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