Eurochild President speaks on Italy’s National Day against Paedophilia and Child Pornography

Hosted by Eurochild member Telefono Azzurro, Eurochild President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca speaks about protecting children from abuse and exploitation on the occasion of Italy’s National Day against Paedophilia and Child Pornography.

As the internet has evolved and grown, we have seen the increase in the viral spread of child sexual abuse in many forms. For instance, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) received 375,230 reports in 2022, an increase of 4% compared to 2021, of which 70% was confirmed as child sexual abuse imagery. Moreover, 66% of this content was traced back to servers in the EU.

As H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca highlighted in her intervention, at Eurochild we believe that a child has the right to be - simply a child and enjoy their childhood. “The internet allows for abusive material to be re-shared multiple times online, with children being victimised and traumatised over, and over again. Simply put, children’s dignity is continuously attacked, and their childhood and their youth robbed.”

The responsibility of a ‘safe’ and ‘wise’ use of online products should not fall on children. Instead, online platforms and services must be designed in a way that they are safe for children. Eurochild commends the preventative approach of the EU proposed regulation on child sexual abuse, which promotes safety by design by imposing risk assessment and mitigation obligations for all information service providers.

Voluntary detection and reporting, by companies, has proven insufficient to adequately protect children. Policymakers should hold companies accountable. Hopefully, the European Union will become the first jurisdiction in the world, to oblige companies to carry out risk assessments, and mitigation of their platforms. [...] Children hold the same rights, offline and online, and decision-makers have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure this. This is recognised in the General Comment N. 25 to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Decision-makers must recognise the full spectrum of children’s rights when discussing their protection online, including their privacy, the right to non-discrimination, and the rights to participation.”

At Eurochild, we are working closely with the European Union and other civil society organisations in ensuring a regulation that fights the three main different forms of child sexual abuse online by covering known and new material, together with grooming. We advocate for a child-rights approach and victim-centered regulation that puts the best interests of the child at the centre. We must protect the tech neutrality of the proposal, to ensure it is futureproof and can address the fast evolving manifestations of child sexual abuse at scale for decades to come. The regulation must guarantee the views of all children affected by it are heard and taken into account within the EU Centre.

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