Brussels presented on Wednesday a draft regulation imposing obligations on online platforms and couriers to detect, report and remove child pornography images, worrying about the explosion of this illegal content. The plague is growing, and those who thrive on it don’t care about national borders. According to figures from the European Commissionreports of online child sexual abuse in the EU have increased – from 23,000 in 2010 to over 725,000 in 2019.
In the web of pedophile criminals
And the phenomenon increased thereafter, warns Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol: “The Covid-19 crisis has led to an increase in the online distribution of child pornography content, which was already at high levels before the pandemic. » Reports jumped 64% between 2020 and 2021, to reach 85 million sexual videos and photos featuring minors, confirms the British observatory Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
The European executive would like to regain control, assuming that most criminal networks attacking minors are transnational. “Our society today fails to protect children”, said Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson. She announces “legislative provisions to require online platforms to detect and report on this illegal content”as well as “the creation of a new European center to prevent and combat sexual abuse committed against children”.
Duty of care
Until now, web companies (social networks, couriers, suppliers) reported child pornography content on a voluntary basis. Once the provision has been adopted by the European Parliament and Council, they will be required to assess the risks of criminal use of their communication tools and to take preventive action. In particular, the Commission intends to launch an awareness-raising campaign involving child protection NGOs and civil society partners – with a slogan: “The danger is real. »
This accountability of the platforms takes place within the broader framework of the EU Digital Services Act (DSA) regulation which requires monitoring, otherwise up to 6% of their turnover could be engaged. An independent authority will be responsible for monitoring Internet companies. In the event of default in the face of their new obligations, the latter may take legal action.
Sexual assaults on minors are diverse. It may just as well be solicitation for sexual purposes, dissemination of sexual abuse of minors, or even revenge porn and sexual blackmail, which affect many adolescents.
Europol at work
The Commission is including the new measures in a 2020-2025 strategy. To support the investigations carried out in each country, the European criminal police agency Europol has defined the fight against the sexual exploitation of children as one of its “crime priorities”.
A year ago, under the coordination of Europol, the German police had dismantled one of the world’s largest child pornography networks on the darknet (clandestine network). Four suspects were arrested, including those suspected of being the leaders of the criminal organization, which was already doing without traditional web players.
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Brussels wants to strengthen the means to fight against pedocrime on the Internet
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