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

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

ECPAT and NSPCC 2023 Poll Reveals Unwavering Public Demand: 9 in 10 EU Citizens Say Legislation to End Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation is Key

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Despite ongoing debate, an unwavering 90% of adults across Europe have made their stance unmistakable: legislation is key to protecting children from the scourge of online sexual abuse and exploitation, as revealed by ECPAT and NSPCC 2023 Poll. This is a non-negotiable stance; it’s a societal mandate that asks for immediate attention.  
With new technologies being developed every day and the presence of the internet in our daily lives, all Europeans agree: children are increasingly at risk of child sexual abuse and exploitation online.  

ECPAT and NSPCC’s 2023 Poll has shown that public opinion remains steadfast. We surveyed 25,151 people aged 18+ across 15 EU countries and the UK and we found out that the call for legislation to protect children online is not up for debate; it’s an urgent public demand. More than half of all Europeans surveyed declared that this issue will influence how they vote at a future election. With the European Parliament elections on the horizon in June 2024, MEPs face a duty and a moral imperative to enact meaningful legislation for online child safety.

Don’t let the debate derail action. Tweet your leader NOW to insist that the EU end child sexual abuse online, and let them know that public opinion firmly supports protective measures. 



Not only are Europeans calling for more child safety online, but ECPAT and Eurobarometer data show they want it now more than ever. In 2021, ECPAT conducted a similar poll, asking EU citizens about their views on child safety online. The findings from 2021 and 2023 underscore a major growing concern among European citizens: children in 2023 are not safer online than they were in 2021. The time has come to place legal obligations on online service providers, such as social media platforms, to assess and mitigate the risk of child sexual abuse on their online platforms. 

Share the words of Frida, a survivor of child sexual abuse calling on tech companies to do more to protect children online! 

In the words of Frida*, a survivor of technology-facilitated sexual abuse as a child:

“As a 13-year-old, I deserved to be safe, and I deserved the right to express myself on the internet. As someone in my early twenties I deserve the right to privacy, the right to know that explicit images and videos of me as a child can’t continue to be shared.”  

ECPAT and NSPCC 2023 EU Poll reveals that: 

  • 95% of European respondents say it is important there are laws to regulate online service providers to prevent and combat child sexual abuse and exploitation online; 
  • 91% of European respondents agree that children are increasingly at risk online
  • 86% of European respondents agree that children are increasingly at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation online
  • 91% of European respondents say that online service providers should be required to design and adapt their services to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation online;
  • 81% of European respondents support moves to oblige online service providers to detect, report, and remove child sexual abuse online;

Access the Executive Summary

Access the Poll Questionnaire 

Access the Poll Tables

Despite the contentious debate around online privacy, ECPAT and NSPCC poll reveal that 72% of adults in the EU and the UK are willing to compromise some degree of their privacy online if it helps to protect children from risks of sexual abuse online. Data show that more than 70% of adults in the EU and the UK support online service providers to detect, report, and remove child sexual abuse material and grooming on end-to-end encrypted services. The message is clear: privacy concerns should not eclipse the safety of our children. 

Amy Crocker, Head of Child Protection and Technology at ECPAT International said:

Public sentiment remains unswayed by privacy debates that overshadow child protection needs. The demand for comprehensive legislation safeguarding our children online is urgent, immediate, and non-negotiable. EU leaders can no longer afford to be inactive or indecisive. Privacy is essential, buthe well-being of our children must be the cornerstone of EU digital policies.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

It’s clear that voters across the UK and Europe back strong protections for children online and companies opposed to regulation are becoming increasingly out of step with their user base. Lawmakers and tech executives should listen to the voices of survivors and the public by placing the safety of children at the centre of their decision-making.

Add your voice on social media and remember to use the #ChildSafetyON hashtag! 

Data reveals that Europeans see online service providers as one of the most important actors in preventing and protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. And for a good reason! A WeProtect Global Study on the experiences of 18-20-year-old confirms Europeans’ growing concern: more than 60% of child respondents in Europe are experiencing at least one form of child sexual abuse online. Alarmingly, more than 60% of children worldwide are receiving unwanted sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages through mobile phones on private messaging services.  

ECPAT Disrupting Harm research shows that advice and education coming from parents and teachers is not enough to protect children online. More needs to be done on the side of tech companies and online service providers as the dangers for children increase.  

Tweet your leader NOW to insist that the EU end child sexual abuse online, and let them know that public opinion firmly supports protective measures. 

In 2023, analysts at the Internet Watch Foundation unveiled a disturbing 26% surge in online child sexual abuse material compared to the same period in 2022. Shockingly, the European Union remains the larger hub for the hosting of such content in both 2022 and 2023. The immeasurable toll this takes on the well-being of countless children and survivors is incalculable.  
In a climate where harmful rhetoric around privacy often clouds judgement, one truth remains consistent: child safety is paramount. With a distressing volume of child sexual abuse material reported online every single minute, the urgency for action is immediate. Our children cannot afford to wait. EU Institutions, National Governments, and online service providers must cut through the debate and enact legislation that places the safety and rights of our children at the heart of EU digital policies. 
Interview: Child Rights organisations support the EU Proposal to Prevent and Combat Online Child Sexual Abuse

ECPAT International’s opinion on the topic of child sexual abuse online and the European Commission’s proposal to Combat and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse online. Interview broadcasted in the German MDR/AR media journal.

Listen to the interview.

in September 2022

Available in: German

Behind the Screens: Early Findings from the VOICE Research

The VOICE project is a collaboration between three child rights organisations towards a common goal to strengthen children’s digital rights and online safety: ECPAT International, Eurochild, and Terre des Hommes Netherlands on behalf of the Down to Zero Alliance. It aims to listen to the views of children and caregivers and share their insights and opinions about online child safety to inform policy at the national and EU level, as well as globally.

This insights brief offers a preview of the valuable perspectives of parents and caregivers on online safety, along with some initial reflections from children. It’s important to note that the insights presented are preliminary, as the children’s perspectives from all participating countries have not been fully collected and analyzed at this stage. By exploring the nuanced aspects of children’s online safety, we’re setting the stage for meaningful discussions, paving the way for the in-depth report to be presented in March 2024.

by ECPAT International, Eurochild, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands on behalf of the Down To Zero Alliance in 2023

Available in: English

(Child) Sex Offender Registry: Executive Summary

This document summarises the learnings obtained from the (Child) Sex Offender Registry: Working Paper and the Technical Considerations for the Development of (Child) Sex Offender Registries.

This analysis delves into the complexities surrounding child sex offender registries, questioning their efficacy in both crime prevention and child protection. Our reporting examines the moral quandaries of public versus restricted access, advocating for a risk-based, multi-agency approach over a system solely based on offences. Concluding with key recommendations, it emphasises the need for a balanced, evidence-based strategy that pairs enforcement with preventive education and global collaboration.

by ECPAT International in 2023

Available in: English

ECPAT and NSPCC child online safety poll: Questionnaires

In 2023, ECPAT International and NSPCC conducted a large survey on child safety online, in partnership with Savanta. Over 25,000 adults were surveyed across 15 countries in the EU and the UK on their understanding and views on the balance between personal privacy and the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet.

The results show unwavering support for child safety online and the need for new legislation to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation, including regulation of online platforms. A large majority support the use and development of automated tools to detect child sexual abuse and exploitation across a variety of platforms, including end-to-end encrypted environments. Most importantly, most respondents recognise and understand the importance of compromise between online privacy and child safety online.

Please find the Executive Summaries here.

by ECPAT International and NSPCC in 2023

Available in: Austrian, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish

Overview of research findings: Sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and transport in Burkina Faso, Côte D’ivoire, Guinea and Niger

The “Ensemble” project is a three-year joint initiative (2022-2024) of ECPAT International, ECPAT France, and national partners Keoogo (Burkina Faso), SOS Violences Sexuelles (Côte d’Ivoire), Monde Des Enfants (Guinea), and Association Nigérienne pour le Traitement de la Délinquance et la prévention des crimes (Niger).

In the first year of the project, ECPAT International and its partners explored the issue of sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and transport, through research aimed at documenting local knowledge and understanding of this problem in each country, as well as assessing practices and identifying localised responses. The results of the research have been consolidated in this document.

by ECPAT International in 2023

Available in: English