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Why Does Online Child Safety Matter?

ECPAT Project Beacon – Why does it matter article series

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Since 2021, ECPAT International through Project Beacon, has been working with our members across the EU to advocate for a comprehensive EU Strategy to address online child sexual abuse. On 11 May 2022, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation to both prevent and combat child sexual abuse online. The regulation aims to clarify and standardise the process that technology companies must take to detect, remove, and report online child sexual abuse material and exploitative behaviours. 

At ECPAT, we support a legal requirement for all online service providers to ensure the proactive detection, removal, and reporting of child sexual abuse material online. The EU Commission’s proposal is only the first step to a EU-wide  and recognisable protocol to protect children online.  

The fact is that children navigate the online space from a very young age and they need to be able to do so safely. Whether it’s for educational purposes, to connect with their friends, or to just play, the data shows that the digital is the norm for the younger generations. This trend is only growing and as more and more children are entering into a fuller emersed live in digital spaces, so too will the criminals that wish to prey on them.  

The number of child sexual abuse material found online had increased from 1 million in 2014 to over 20 million in 2021. Digital platforms can and should ensure online privacy while scanning for illegal child sexual abuse material and adopt artificial intelligence while developing messaging platforms with safety by design standards. As the owners/creators of these spaces, these companies have a duty of care to ensure that the children who use their platforms are being kept safe from child sexual abuse and exploitation. 

Through Project Beacon, we will continue to advocate for child safety online, accountability and better training for all, as well as for the establishment of an EU Centre that will improve coordination between law enforcement agencies, share best practices for preventive measures, and support child victims of sexual exploitation in Europe and beyond.  

It is time to put children at the heart of digital policies. Together, we can turn the tide on online child sexual abuse and ensure all children are safe and protected when navigating online. 

Click on the images below and learn more about the intersections between online privacy and child protection 

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