In May 2022, the European Commission proposed a law that will make it mandatory for service providers to assess the risk of child sexual abuse on their platforms and, where necessary, to implement preventative measures. Where prevention cannot reduce a significant risk, providers could also be ordered to run targeted checks for child sexual abuse on their products and services and report cases to a new dedicated EU centre. In many situations, providers are the only ones that can detect the abuse, as the child is too young or too scared to report it and their parents or carers are either not aware or are the abusers themselves. When child sexual abuse is detected online, it helps the police to identify and rescue victims, ensure that images and videos of their abuse are removed quickly, and bring sexual predators to justice. In short, this law will help protect children, support victims, and save lives.
The current laws are not enough
This law is crucial in the prevention and fight against child sexual abuse because the current system of voluntary prevention, detection and reporting that some online service providers have implemented is not effective. Some companies take comprehensive action, while most take little or no action at all. These gaps in action mean that there are open spaces for abusers and risks for children, and abuse continues undetected. At the moment, companies are free to decide to change their policies at any time, which can have significant impact on children.
How detection of child sexual abuse online works
The technology that detects child sexual abuse online has been used all over the world for over 10 years. It has proved to be successful, effective and accurate. The technology does not read messages and it does not monitor photos and videos. Instead, it converts all content into code and compares it with code that belongs to previously reported child sexual abuse content and to other indicators to identify child sexual abuse. If there is a match, the content gets blocked and reported. Just like a sniffer dog looking for drugs in a suitcase, it only sniffs out illegal substances, and it does not care about the rest of the suitcase’s contents nor about the identity of its owner.
The new EU rules on combating child sexual abuse online will protect all users’ privacy and will help victims recover their privacy by stopping images and videos of their worst moments from circulating the internet. Detection of child sexual abuse will adhere to data protection rules and rules on privacy of communication. In addition, the law will ensure that detection systems are used only to find and report online child sexual abuse.
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The EU’s goal is to make this law a reality by August 2024. If the law does not pass by then, the current EU regulation will expire, making most detection of child sexual abuse online impossible and therefore easier for predators to sexually abuse children without consequences.
Learn more about the EU legislation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse and help us share the message.
- Publication date
- 1 December 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs