The European Parliament has endorsed a temporary regulation that will allow web-based service providers to continue the fight against child exploitation and child sexual abuse material online.
Under the new regulation, which will apply for a maximum of three years (or fewer if new permanent rules are agreed upon in the meantime), service providers will be able to continue applying voluntary measures to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse content.
This regulation comes as the pandemic has seen a concerning increase in child abuse material online. The agreement foresees the temporary derogation from the articles that protect the confidentiality of communications and traffic data.
In doing so, this legislation will seek to protect children online pending more effectively and will see more robust regulations being implemented permanently.
The European Parliament is set on combatting online child sexual abuse. This means using technology to scan and remove content. But how does this square with EU data protection rules? Learn more from Birgit Sippel, the author of Parliament’s report on this. pic.twitter.com/06OCKMQa1o
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) July 7, 2021
MEPs backed the legislation with 537 votes in favour, 133 against and 24 abstentions. They also insisted on the establishment of appropriate procedures and redress mechanisms to ensure that individuals are able to lodge complaints if they consider their rights being infringed.
Under this legislation, service providers should only use the least privacy-intrusive technologies possible.
“Child sexual abuse is a horrible crime that violates human rights. We have to prevent it more effectively, prosecute more offenders and offer better support to survivors,” said Rapporteur Birgit Sippel.
Online material that is linked to child abuse is detected using specific technologies that scan content such as images, text or traffic data. Meanwhile, hashing technology helps with images and videos, classifiers and artificial intelligence are used to analyse text or traffic data to detect cyber grooming.
“The agreement is a compromise between detecting child sexual abuse online and protecting users’ privacy,” Sippel explained. “It might not be perfect, but it is a workable, temporary solution for the next three years”.
“We now urgently need the Commission to propose a long-term solution that draws inspiration from the data protection safeguards found in the temporary rules, and which, in addition, makes scanning of private communications more targeted.”
Malta is not spared from child abuse problems either. The situation was put into the spotlight just earlier this week when it was revealed that 51 minors have been treated in hospital for injuries sustained through physical or sexual abuse since 2018.
Though it was not specified how many of these cases were a result of physical or sexual abuse, it is still quite clear that it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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