Civil rights activists oppose the European Commission’s proposal to combat child pornography – they warn against mass surveillance. The federal government is also critical of the plans.
EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has responded calmly to criticism from the federal government of her proposal to combat child abuse on the Internet. “I’m not nervous,” said the Swede from the German press agency in Brussels.
She works particularly well with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD). This also feels very engaged in the fight against abuse representations. Johansson bets that it will take some time before everyone has read and understood their proposal in detail. She will present the draft at a meeting of EU ministers at the end of the week. It will, of course, take some time for ministers to review the text because it is “a fairly comprehensive proposal”. “But I am very happy with the support I have received from Germany, for example from Nancy Faeser.”
In mid-May, the European Commission presented a draft law which it intends to curb the spread of child pornography on the Internet. Civil rights organizations and other critics use the slogan “chat control”. They see it as an attempt to scan all communications on the network, including encrypted messages, and fear mass surveillance. There is no technology that can accurately track depictions of abuse and care. Grooming is adults’ contact with children with the intent to offend. The draft even goes too far for the German child protection association.
Federal ministers Marco Buschmann, Volker Wissing (both FDP) and Faeser have also recently expressed criticism. Justice Minister Buschmann tweeted that he was “very skeptical” politically and legally. “My company rejects a general, comprehensive surveillance measure for private correspondence, especially in the digital sphere.” In the Bundestag, he said: “Chat control has no place in the rule of law.” Digital Minister Wissing announced that some of the proposals worried him “because they could represent an intrusion into the protected area with communication confidentiality”.
After initially welcoming the proposal in principle, Faeser also changed his mind. On Friday, she said, “It’s about encrypted communication. It would be like looking at every letter, in every mailbox. Nobody wants that.”
companies have an obligation
Johansson, on the other hand, defends the draft and emphasizes that it does not prescribe any technology. The text that the EU countries and the European Parliament are now to negotiate rather defines a specific procedure. Therefore, all companies must first analyze how great the risk is that child pornography will be shared on their pages. If necessary, the pages should take countermeasures. This makes it much harder for criminals and pedophiles, Johansson said. If this is not sufficient, a so-called “detection order” for scanning the content can be imposed by a court or other independent authority.
Johansson points to additional precautions to protect privacy, for example when searching for grooming cases. Grooming is when adults with intentions of abusive contact with minors. Because the technology is not yet as accurate as the one used to detect known images, hits must always be verified by humans before actual cases are passed on to law enforcement, Johansson said. This should be done by a newly created EU authority.
Technical details unclear
She leaves it open which software should do all this. “We do not know what kind of technology will be developed,” she told dpa. She will not fall into the trap of writing a specific technology into the legislation, which may already be obsolete when the rules come into force. The decision as to whether a particular technology is sufficiently effective in relation to how much it invades people’s privacy must always be made by the competent authority. Because technology is evolving rapidly, this trade-off may change over time.
Next, the EU countries and the European Parliament must negotiate the proposal before agreeing on a common line. However, the position of the Council of Ministers does not have to be unanimous. The federal government, which promises a “right to encryption” in the coalition agreement, may be overruled by the other countries. (dpa)