On Tuesday 11 February, "Safer Internet Day" is celebrated across the world under the slogan “Together for a better internet”. Safer Internet Day is organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs), with the support of the European Commission.
The protection of children against sexual abuse and sexual exploitation is a priority for the European Commission, with a specific focus on protecting the digital space. In many cases, the victims are first approached online by offenders, who, for example, hide their true identity to gain their trust. Frequently, the images and videos of that abuse and exploitation are shared online, bringing continued suffering and abuse to the survivors.
The Commission uses different tools to protect children online:
The Commission ensures that Member States fully implement EU law on combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography (Directive 2011/93). In 2019, the Commission started infringements procedures against 23 Member States to ensure compliance with the directive.
Cooperation between public and private actors is key to fighting these crimes effectively. The Commission supports coordination through the We Protect Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, a global, multi-stakeholder organisation bringing together more than 90 governments, 22 global technology companies, 26 leading NGOs and 8 regional organisations.
The fight against child sexual abuse material has become part of the discussions of the EU Internet Forum, which gathers EU Home Affairs Ministers, the internet industry and other stakeholders to work together voluntarily to combat the child sexual abuse threat.
The European Union’s Law Enforcement Cooperation Agency, Europol, also coordinates operational action in the fight against child sexual abuse. Some of the Europol’s most innovative ongoing activities in this regard include Stop Child Abuse - Trace an Object, which has so far resulted in 3 offenders prosecuted and 10 victims safeguarded, and the ‘Say No’ campaign, available in all EU countries to educate the youth in online sexual coercion and extortion matters. Europol is also committed to offer a unique platform for young people to make their voices heard on online and offline safety issues. During the Safer Internet Day, Europol hosts the third European Youth Day, a large open event for Dutch and international students providing a hands-on interactive learning experience regarding different topics around internet, technology and online safety.
The Commission provides funding for a number of projects fighting child sexual abuse. In addition to the INHOPE network, the Commission has funded the International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, which enables the identification of victims globally. The Commission organises regular calls for proposals under both Internal Security Fund and Horizon 2020.
In addition to public authorities, industry and NGOs, everyone can play a role to protect better children online. For example, parents and educators can have an open and empowering dialogue with children on how to be digital role models and on how to safely and positively use technology. The online world is one we all share. And remember that if you come across child sexual abuse material online you can report it anonymously to the INHOPE hotline in your country or to law enforcement.
- 11 Februar 2020