EU wants to report child abuse for tech companies

The European Commission plans to significantly improve the protection of minors on the internet. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the German  Welt am Sonntag this . Among other things, a notification obligation for tech companies is part of the new strategy, says Johansson.

Tightening of current policy

Reporting prohibited content has so far only been on a voluntary basis. Internet companies decide for themselves whether and how they combat online sexual abuse. According to Johansson, this is no longer sufficient. Partly due to the corona pandemic, the demand for child sexual abuse material has increased. In some EU Member States this has increased by as much as 25 per cent, says Johansson.

Internet service providers and social networks reported 22 million cases of child sexual abuse in 2020. According to Johansson, this is only a fraction of the actual number of criminal offences.

The EU Commissioner says he is working on new legislation. “I will be proposing legislation in the coming months that would require companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse.” The obligation will mainly concern the large internet companies. 99 per cent of the reports come from these companies. “Only Meta (formerly Facebook) is responsible for 95 per cent,” said Johansson.

The discovery and removal of child pornographic material should become an “automatic reflex” for internet companies in the future, the EU Commissioner demands. “We need to create an environment where companies, big and small, understand their obligation to child sexual abuse.”

Specialized European Center

While Johansson recognizes that data protection and encryption are important, she believes the main focus should be on protecting children. Their right to physical integrity, internet security and privacy must be protected, Johansson said. Online child sexual abuse often leads to multiple traumas.

Johansson argues for European and global coordination of the fight against abuse of minors. “I see a great need for a dedicated EU centre to prevent and combat child sexual abuse.” Such a centre would make it possible to continuously improve prevention and law enforcement as well as support for victims.

Young people are also vulnerable online

In addition to online sexual abuse of children, there is also an increase in the unwanted distribution of nude photos among young people. This month it turned out that at one in four primary schools in the Netherlands unwanted nude photos of students are being distributed. A quarter of pupils in groups 7 and 8 of primary education come into contact with unwanted nude photos of pupils or classmates. Care coordinators recognize the problem and advocate a national approach.

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