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

Why does regulation matter in protecting children online?

Posted on Sep 20, 2021

Technology companies need formal regulation and accountability to keep children safe online.


When the internet first burst onto the scene very few people working in child protection – or the world – really understood how it worked.  As such, child protection organisations, law enforcement agencies , governments and the public were forced to rely on the voluntary cooperation of technology companies to help keep children safe on their platforms. This was the beginning of the concept of “self-regulation”, which emerged in a very different world than that of today.

Indeed, as more activities take place online and through digital devices – from socialising to banking to shopping and more – it has become clear that a more robust framework of laws and  regulation of digital service providers needs to be put into place to ensure safety in a highly complex digital environment. ECPAT International calls for a system of trustworthiness and transparency governing the online world. If companies claim they are protecting children, the claim must be verifiable. To guard against unverifiable claims, technology companies must confirm to a mandated authority that they are honouring their legal obligations, including towards children.

At the moment, companies may publish documents saying they are protecting children, but they do not have to be verified by an external party and more needs to be done. In the near future, the European Union will bring in the Digital Services Act (DSA), and other measures, which will introduce new regulations based on laws;  “self-regulation” will no longer be acceptable. Other countries around the world are already implementing or  considering similar regulations, and it is anticipated that others will follow. ECPAT International’s Project Beacon team will be sharing more about the DSA as it is debated, amended and finally approved in the EU. 

Join us in the fight to ensure social media platforms are regulated and children are protected in the online space! 

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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