Dublin Independent MEP, Nessa Childers, welcomed the vote this week in the European Parliament which outlined the measures needed to investigate online child sexual abuse, prosecute offenders, protect child victims and remove illegal online content. ‘More than 80% of victims of online child sexual abuse are aged younger than 10. A stronger and more urgent response is needed’.
“The recommendations voted in by parliament this week have to be implemented with vigour. We also need to reinstate EU funding for service providers to coordinate their efforts to combat online abuse of children”, said Childers.
Data shows that more than 80 % of the victims are under 10 years old, and to combat the sexual exploitation of children and child abuse images, a comprehensive approach is needed, embracing the investigation of offences, the prosecution of offenders, the protection of child victims and preventive measures, says the resolution, which was approved by a large majority in the parliament.
Parliament’s call for action says that:
- Any illicit content must be promptly removed and reported to law enforcement authorities. MEPs highlight the role of the ICT industry, internet service providers and internet host providers in ensuring fast and efficient removal “at the request of the responsible law enforcement authority”;
- Europol and national law enforcement authorities should be given the necessary funds, human resources, investigative powers and technical capabilities to “seriously and effectively pursue, investigate and prosecute the offenders”;
- new high-tech capabilities should be developed to meet the challenges of analysing vast amounts of child abuse imagery, including material hidden on the “dark web”;
- children’s online personal data must be duly protected, and they should be informed in an easy and child-friendly way of the risks and consequences of using their data online. The ongoing data protection reform includes important changes to better protect the rights of children online, MEPs underline;
- awareness-raising campaigns on responsible behaviour in the social media and online sexual abuse prevention programmes should be set up to empower children and support parents and educators in understanding and handling online risks. Hotlines should also be developed to enable children to denounce abuse anonymously, and
- EU countries that have not yet transposed the 2011 directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography into their national laws are urged to do so (furthermore, over half have yet to implement it in full, notes the resolution).
An international problem needs an international solution
International cooperation and transnational investigations must be stepped up, since these crimes span hundreds of countries with different legal jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies. MEPs welcome the joint initiative by the EU and 55 countries to form the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online. This aims to rescue more victims, ensure more effective prosecution, raise awareness and achieve an overall reduction in the amount of child sexual abuse material available online.