Sexualized violence against children: How far does the EU go in protecting children?

Status: 05/11/2022 09:17

The European Commission presents plans for how to combat sexual violence against children online. In this context, there are also warnings not to weaken data protection too much.

By Helga Schmidt, ARD Studio Brussels

They are flooding the internet: Photos of sexually abused children and movies with pornographic images are on the rise. Last year, twice as many were counted as the year before. EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johannsson was shocked to hear from investigators that Europe had become a global hub for the trade in images of sexualised violence.

The Swede finds it a disgrace that nowhere else in the world is as much “child pornography” distributed as in the EU, and that depictions of sexualised violence are becoming increasingly extreme. “Nearly 90 percent of all websites worldwide are on European servers. During the corona pandemic, online child abuse has increased – in Europe and in the United States.”

The EU wants to identify perpetrators

The EU Commissioner in Brussels wants to better protect children and get the perpetrators out of the anonymity of the internet. Companies should be required to identify, report and then eliminate sexualized violence against children on their platforms.

It will first and foremost affect the large Internet companies: first and foremost Facebook, now the meta-group, which alone, according to the Commission’s results, accounted for about 95 percent of previous reports.

Many important details of the Commission’s plans are still open, such as whether all photos and messages should be scanned automatically and without cause.

“Chat control is ineffective and illegal”

Nevertheless, data protection associations are already in place. What if all WhatsApp messages get scanned in the future? Another example that is often mentioned: When a search software recognizes nude images that adults and minors may have sent voluntarily, but which still end up with the investigating authorities.

An automated search would be disproportionate, says Patrick Breyer, who sits in the EU Parliament for the Pirate Party. “Chat control is like a post office that opens and scans all mail. It’s inefficient and illegal. And anyone who destroys the privacy and secure encryption of digital mail destroys the trust and confidentiality we all depend on.”

Balance data protection with child protection

Now the Pirate Party is known for wanting maximum privacy. But in Parliament, it is remarkable that other groups also have their problems with the Commission’s legislative plans. FDP politician Moritz Körner, for example. He does not believe that companies are required to monitor their users’ communications; he calls it government spyware.

The big challenge is ultimately to reconcile data protection with child protection, says CDU MP Lena Düpont. But she speaks of a clear goal: “It is quite clear that our investigative authorities need every tool at hand to act effectively against these heinous crimes, because behind them there is always a child’s fate that we can, must and should protect. better. “

In any case, Düpont still sees a lot of work for Parliament and the Commission when Ylva Johansson presents her draft law today.

Data protection vs. child protection: EU wants to take stricter steps against child pornography

Helga Schmidt, ARD Brussels, 11 May 2022 at 07.50

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