We cannot risk that the EU becomes a safe haven for paedophiles and sexual predators online

22 January 2021

 

We learnt with great concern that the US National Center for Missing and Exploited (NCMEC) children recorded a 46% drop in the number of EU-related CyberTipline reports submitted by technology companies comparing the three weeks before and three weeks after the European Electronic Communication Code entered into force last December 21st. We regret the lack of agreement to adopt the Temporary Derogation to the ePrivacy Directive at the last trilogue negotiations on December 17th. This derogation was precisely set to prevent this situation from happening by allowing number-independent interpersonal communications services providers to continue to utilise technological to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse online.

We are extremely worried about these recent figures, which follow the lack of an agreement during the last trilogue. As a result and in order to comply with the new EU privacy legislation, Facebook switched off some of its child abuse detection tools in Europe, since the new European Electronic Communications Code bans online communications services providers from using these tools.

The lack of adoption of the Temporary Derogation to the ePrivacy Directive entails enormous risks for a countless number of children in Europe – as well as around the world – who are now left severely less protected and far greater jeopardy at the hands of sexual predators online. At a time where children will spend much more time online, in the midst of raging pandemic that continues befalling in Europe – with more lockdown measures enacted – this development is particularly worrisome.

We reiterate the importance of these tools to rescue children from ongoing abuse and that they have proven instrumental in preventing the abuse from happening, as in the case of the anti-grooming technology.

We need to allow number-independent interpersonal communications services providers to resume using all the technological tools to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse material – both known material and new images, including self-generated content – as well as detect instances of grooming.

As time goes on without an agreement on the Temporary Derogation, child sexual abusers will continue to entice, groom, sexually exploit, and trade sexually abusive images of children online completely with impunity. Every day counts, we cannot continue to allow abetting this course of action where children are left unprotected from sexual predators online.

We urge all negotiating parties in the current trilogues to find an agreement, without any further unnecessary delay, that ensures better protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. Children’s safety should always be our primary consideration. 

 

David Lega MEP, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

Caterina Chinnici MEP, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

Hilde Vautmans MEP, Co-Chair of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights

 

For more information and media inquiries, please contact:

 

Emilio Puccio, Coordinator of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights

E: emilio.puccio@europarl.europa.eu

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