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

Towards online child protection in the EU

How can we ensure child safety online—without giving up our privacy?

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As child sexual abuse online increses every year, it is clear that the long-running practice of relying on tech platforms to self-regulate is not working. Effective, long-term solutions to counter the proliferation of child sexual abuse and exploitation online lies in government regulation. With such regulations drafted or already in place in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all eyes now turn to the leadership of the European Union. 

On 11 May 2022, the European Commission published its much-anticipated proposal for a regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. 

The proposal will provide much-needed clarity on what technology companies must do to prevent, detect, report, and remove child sexual exploitation and abuse online. It contains two key strands:

  1. new obligations for online service providers, such as social media platforms, to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on their services;
  2. the creation of an EU Centre to coordinate and support action by companies and Member State Coordinating Authorities.
Law enforcement, technology companies, children’s organisations and hotlines need a clear framework to effectively prevent and combat child sexual abuse and exploitation online. 

It is essential for all stakeholders, inclusing online service providers, to step up and share information when a child sexual abuse crime occurs, when a child is at risk, or when they can contribute to preventing a child from being harmed. With this new proposal, the European Commission is creating a rulebook on how and by whom that information must be gathered, and how it is to be used to protect children while respecting users’ privacy online.

Every child deserves a safe online experience!

ECPAT and child rights organizations across the EU and beyond share a common mission: protecting children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.While the internet offers incredible opportunities for learning, communication, and creativity, it can also pose dangers to children, as some individuals may seek to harm them through abuse. Our collective goal is to create a safe online environment for kids. ECPAT encourages EU politicians to support the proposed regulation, making child safety online a reality in the European Union.

Tweet your leader to demand that the EU ends child sexual abuse online! 

The public wants action to keep children safe online! 

In a recent survey conducted by ECPAT International member organisations across the EU, we found out that there is widespread public support for the European Union to introduce longer-term legislation that will keep children safe online. As tech companies continue to introduce end-to-end encryption onto their platforms for users’ privacy, it is critical that they are required to implement the necessary child safety tools and features:

  • 73% of adults believing children cannot go online without being approached by adults looking to harm them.
  • 76% of adults indicated a willingness to compromise some of their own personal privacy online to allow for automated technology tools to scan and detect images of child sexual abuse and detect other forms of sexual exploitation of children.  
  • Most agree that regulating online spaces with the best interest of children is essential to ensuring their safety online. 

Sign the petition to end child sexual abuse online! 

Most of us have willingly agreed to use tools like malware and spam filters that protect our online safety by storing some of our data. Similarly, the technology designed to spot child sexual abuse material is a highly targeted measure. It efficiently removes evidence of child sexual abuse from the internet. Learn more.

This is about real children and their right to live healthy, safe, and secure lives in digital and physical environments.

These technologies safeguards the dignity and privacy of survivors whose abuse is shared online, acts as strong deterrent for criminals, and ensures online platforms don’t support criminal content exchange. So, let’s ask ourselves: Do we view spam and malware filters as privacy violations? Do we want child sexual abuse material circulating online any more than we want to deal with malware or spam?

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

We urge EU policymakers, online platforms, and tech firms to: 

  • Require and implement risk assessment and safety by design measures. Online service providers should proactively assess child sexual abuse risks on their platforms. Learn more. 
  • Enforce legal obligations and standards for detecting, reporting, and removing child sexual abuse online, even on encrypted platforms. Learn more. 
  • Establish a collaborative EU Center to combat online child abuse, uniting law enforcement, tech firms, NGOs, and support services. Learn more.
  • Comply with strong detection safeguards and transparancy to protect users, including children. Detecting child sexual abuse should also use safe methods like hashing technologies.
  • Ensure efficient support for survivors of online child sexual abuse within and beyond the EU.