New parliamentary opinion to threaten EU regulation on child sexual abuse

Eurochild joins 40+ organisations calling on EU policymakers to amend the IMCO Committee draft opinion to include better measures to protect children online.

On 8 February 2023, the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) published its draft report on the European Commission’s proposal to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. The report aims at informing the main report, drafted by LIBE committee, that will be the basis for the European Parliament’s position on the regulation.

The opinion report proposes to remove the possibility to detect ‘new’ (unknown) child sexual abuse material and grooming (‘solicitation’), while strengthening reporting and prevention. However, prevention and user reporting are essential, but will not solve the issue alone, since underreporting is very common in child sexual abuse cases. ‘Unknown’ CSAM refers to new photos and videos of children being sexually abused or exploited that have not before been detected and categorised. If we want to protect children, we cannot only look for what has already been verified.

It also removes the need for online service providers to report on their age-verification systems. But how can we protect children if we can’t even know if the user is indeed a child? Where a platform cannot be made safe-by-design or where risks in one part of the service have been identified, assessing the age of users on a platform is a critical safeguarding measure.

Finally, the report includes additional privacy safeguards and strengthens the protection of end-to-end encrypted communications, upon the argument that technology is not ready to undergo safe detection of CSAM while ensuring high standards of privacy-protection, data minimisation, proportionality, and transparency. However, according to the proposal, detection orders will only be issued for approved technologies and using a risk assessment, with supervision by national courts and scrutiny by an independent EU Centre. This means that all deployed technologies must meet existing EU standards before they can be used and will thus be safe when applied. In fact, detection measures are already a ‘last resort’, only possible when the risk mitigation measures are not enough to eliminate the risk of a child being exposed to child sexual abuse material or grooming.

Eurochild co-signed a letter through the ECLAG, the EU CSAM (child sexual abuse material) Legislation Advocacy Group) calling on IMCO’s shadow rapporteurs and MEPs to ensure the final report does not favour the anonymity of perpetrators of abuse over the rights of children.

Read the letter

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