Safer Internet Forum - EC Strategy
To achieve what it sets out to do, the Strategy requires collaborative action from all stakeholders. “Without it, this Strategy is just an empty shell… INHOPE are among the key players to turn this Strategy into deeds”.
The session followed Chatham House Rules so all information identifying speakers and participants has been removed.
Welcome and Introduction
Attendees were welcomed to the Safer Internet Forum session “A focus on the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child abuse”. Chaired by INHOPE, the diverse expert panel included representatives from the European Commission; Europol; the Central Unit for the Protection of Minors, French National Police; and Twitter.
Opportunities such as this one, the welcoming speaker said, “give us the time to listen and learn from each other and feel connected to the BIK family”.
The chair formally introduced each member of the panel, and set the tone of the session as one of enthusiasm in welcoming the Strategy and the practical plan it shows for combating Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). As each of the panellists would state after him, the chair expressed the need for collaboration to bring the Strategy to life, and a wish to work with all and any relevant stakeholders towards these objectives and ensure children are protected.
Outlining the Strategy
Panellist A set the ball rolling by explaining the motivations of the strategy, and each of the eight points in detail. As he explained, the strategy is intended to cover the issue of fighting child sexual abuse (CSA) in a comprehensive way: focusing on online and offline aspects i.e. investigation, prevention and assistance to victims. The situation of CSA in the EU, Panellist A acknowledged, is not great. The EU hosts the majority of CSAM globally and COVID-19 has not made this easier. This strategy is the result of multicultural action from the European Parliament (EP) and the Council. It calls for concrete and specific action to protect the rights of children, in an attempt to avoid the pitfall of many policy documents and remaining too high level.
The Strategy utilizes the tools available to the EC at every level: legislation; their ability to coordinate between different stakeholders; and the provision of funding. Given these tools and the problem, the eight concrete initiatives defined in the Strategy fall under three broad categories:
- Implementation of legislation
- Strengthening Law Enforcement
- Galvanising a coordinated and multi stakeholder response
Following this thorough outline of the Strategy, attendees’ attention was drawn to three key messages:
- This Strategy aims to provide a comprehensive response against these crimes using all the tools at EU level online and offline.
- Everyone’s input is essential to ensure the Strategy is fully implemented.
- This Strategy presents a unique opportunity to make a long-lasting change in the fight against these crimes, both in the EU and globally.
Panel and Discussion: Prominent Themes
Firstly, the importance and value of the support promised to Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) was recognised, especially the opportunities it seeks to create to enhance international collaboration. Not only does this require resources to develop specific task forces, but it also requires intelligence.
Thus, the second feature of the Strategy which was discussed was the emphasis on addressing legislative gaps. Support for this was stressed both by Law Enforcement and Industry, in order to protect LEAs ability to gain intelligence in investigations, and to prevent Industry from being caught in the middle of the privacy versus safety debate.
As one member of the panel emphatically expressed, “it is difficult to understand how, when there are 200 children being groomed to produce content in Slovenia, or 100 girls being forced to perform sexual acts via webcam in Norway, there is an emphasis of the rights of all users in terms of privacy on platforms, over the rights of these children.”
Clearer regulation in this area will be especially helpful when working internationally and with the US if it results in a degree of consistency across EU Member States. This lent support to the third point stressed during the panel: the proposal in point six of the Strategy, of developing an EU-wide “NCMEC-like” centre to enhance greater collaboration in the region.
“This crime does not stop at the border, we need to work together and coordinate and support investigations of CSAE across Europe and the world.”
Fourthly, as was repeated several times by all members of the panel, was the essential need for the EC’s proposed temporary derogation to pass, as this will enable electronic service providers to continue their voluntary detection of CSAM on their platforms. For one panellist, it was important that this addressed not only visual material, but also key words. 5 instances of hands-on abuse had been flagged to their team in the last fortnight alone with the method.
“Being blind to the situation won’t stop it happening”.
Read more about the need for the temporary derogation here.
Finally, the panel discussed the need to come up with a solution for the move of offenders, well-informed as to what LEA can and can’t do, towards end-to-end encrypted platforms to share and trade CSAM. On this note, they welcomed the Strategy to enable people fighting this crime to continue moving forward.
All stakeholders present on the panel welcomed the Strategy, stressing the need to collaborate to ensure its implementation, and expressing an enthusiasm for the opportunity which the practical steps outlined presented.
“We see there’s challenges ahead, but there is also a real positivity towards taking the Strategy forward. We need to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet as everyone in this room has a part to play.”
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