Since its launch in 2015, The EU Internet Forum (EUIF) brings together the EU and Member States’ policy makers and the private sector to ensure safety on the internet. On 8 December 2021, Commissioner Johansson hosted the 7th EUIF Ministerial meeting in Brussels.
Protecting children online is a priority
The main topic of the Forum was responsibility sharing with a strong focus on protecting children online. EU Ministers, several leading tech companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Meta and Twitter, as well as Europol and international partners involved in the fight against online violent extremist and child sexual abuse attended the Forum.
In her opening remarks, Commissioner Johansson urged everybody to “turn on the light” and raise awareness on the growing threat of violent right wing extremism and child sexual abuse online. As recent world events show worrying reports of children being radicalised online and targeted for sexual abuse, specifically through video-gaming, the Commissioner insisted that “protecting our children must be our top priority”.
The danger of gaming platforms
Linda Schlegel from the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt gave graphic examples of how violent extremists infiltrate gaming platforms, including making be-spoke games of the Christchurch attack, where kids can play the shooter.
Boosting cooperation with tech companies
The Commissioner welcomed four new member companies to the Forum: TikTok, Twitch, Yubo and Discord. The new Forum members offer entertainment and adjacent gaming environments to younger audiences.
The Commissioner raised the need for better cooperation between law enforcement and tech companies to detect and report child sexual abuse material. Companies’ reporting is often the only tip-off law enforcement receives in order to investigate these crimes.
Another important theme discussedwas the need for 'safety by design'. Companies should design and develop their products having safety in mind already at the start of production. This includes features such as age verification, default settings and privacy features, which ensure age-based protection. For example, not allowing children to send or receive attached files in direct messaging. One of the new member companies Yubo uses live interventions like pop-ups to inform users what would happen if they share their location or nudes to support young people to make the right decisions.
The Commission advanced that in March a legislative proposal combating child sexual abuse will be presented. It will provide clarity and guide companies’ efforts, alongside with the development of the EU Centre to prevent and combat child sexual abuse.
Forum outcomes and plans for 2022
Forum members assembled together a list of challenges to address in 2022. These include the possible risks related to the misuse of recommender algorithms, such as news feeds, that may accidentally spread illegal or borderline content leading to radicalisation.
Furthermore, the Forum will continue to strive for the implementation of the EU Crisis Protocol to ensure better, more coordinated responses in times of crisis to prevent further loss of life. In the case of the attack on the teacher Samuel Paty in France, the perpetrator posted a photo of the victim on Twitter triggering the Protocol. However, industry partners were slow to react. A swifter response should be ensured.
The Forum also adopted a 'Knowledge Package', which is a list of violent right-wing extremist groups, symbols and manifestos that will guide industry in its voluntary moderation of online right-wing extremist content. In the course of 2022, companies are requested to give feedback on the use of this list.
EU Member States and companies committed to deliver on the shared responsibility of making the internet safe, especially for children, yet highlighting the need for further collaboration. Participants agreed that without joint efforts on content moderation and regulation, the internet would quickly become a true safe haven for malicious actors.
- Publication date
- 24 February 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
- EU Internet Forum team