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Migration and Home Affairs
News article26 January 2021

EU Internet Forum Ministerial: towards a coordinated response to curbing terrorist and child sexual abuse content on the internet

On 25 January, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson hosted the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the EU Internet Forum. The Forum gathered EU Member States, industry, academia, law enforcement, European agencies and international partners to discuss and address the challenges posed by the presence of malicious content online. In the course of today’s video-conference, participants had the possibility to exchange views on several issues:

  • EU and industry response to recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria, including the Europol report on the activation for the first time of the EU Crisis Protocol, a voluntary mechanism to help coordinate a rapid, collective and cross-border response to the viral spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online. Participants also discussed collaboration with internet platforms, and moderation of terrorist content in the context of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).
  • Emerging challenges such as the threats posed by Violent Right-Wing Extremism’s online content. As an emerging issue, the participants also discussed issues related to algorithmic amplification and the risk it may pose when used to amplify illegal content.
  • Fighting child sexual abuse: the Commission presented the outcomes of an expert consultation process to identify technical solutions that could allow companies to detect child sexual abuse in end-to-end encrypted electronic communications.

You can watch the web-stream of the opening remarks delivered by Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, Portuguese Minister of Interior Eduardo Cabrita and German State Secretary Markus Richter at this link.

Main points raised

  • Participants agreed on the need to increase the level of engagement in crisis situations;
  • Participants called for increased collaboration in reaching a shared understanding of the phenomenon of Violent Right Wing Extremism and called for clearer guidance for content moderation;
  • Participants stressed the importance to work closely with researchers and the industry to better anticipate and respond to new trends;
  • Speakers underlined the importance of a more comprehensive approach, as there are clear links between hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories and radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism;
  • Speakers stressed the need to strengthen overall digital resilience by raising awareness and fostering media literacy, critical thinking and supporting positive narratives;
  • Participants recognized the need to find technology solutions to challenges to the fight against child sexual abuse online created by technology, so that we can continue fighting against these crimes effectively;
  • Participants recognised the crucial role played by the EU Internet Forum to further develop the fruitful collaboration with social media companies.
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Background

As recalled in the Counter Terrorism Agenda published on 9 December, the Forum provides a collaborative environment for EU governments, the internet industry, academia, law enforcement and international partners to discuss and address the challenges posed by the presence of malicious content online. The Forum allows to explore possible responses jointly with industry partners.

The EU Crisis Protocol endorsed by the EU Internet Forum in October 2019 allows Member States and online platforms to respond rapidly and in a coordinated manner to the dissemination of terrorist or violent extremist content, to ensure it is swiftly contained.

The Forum has expanded its scope to cover child sexual abuse online. The introduction of end-to-end encryption, while beneficial in ensuring privacy and security of communications, also facilitates access to secure channels for perpetrators where they can hide their actions from law enforcement, such as trading images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children, and luring children to sexually abuse them. The current tools that companies use to detect these illegal activities do not work in end-to-end encrypted services.

Under the Forum, technical experts from industry, academia, civil society organizations and governments have worked together to identify possible technical solutions that could allow the detection of child sexual abuse online in end-to-end encrypted communications.

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Details

Publication date
26 January 2021