IWF and EU partners march in Brussels to demand action on vital child sexual abuse regulation

Published:  Tue 19 Sep 2023

Today (September 19), the IWF joined child protection organisations, child sexual abuse survivors, young people and other advocates from across Europe to march on Brussels to ask EU leaders to ‘clean up the internet’ from sexual predators and protect children online.

In a defiant stunt to capture the attention of EU decision-makers, the ECLAG coalition* took to the streets to show support for the proposed EU Regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse**.

Wearing “Child Safety ON” hazmat suits and warning signs, activists highlighted the dangers of the internet for children and called on EU leaders to use their political power to pass this legislation and protect children from sexual abuse online.

The action comes as new data from the European Commission’s Eurobarometer found that Europeans are widely strongly supportive of the bid to protect children online:

  • 92% agree that children are increasingly at risk online.
  • 82% agree that tools like parental control are not enough to keep children safe online
  • 78% support or strongly support the Commission’s proposal to fight child sexual abuse

Across Europe, over 100 public figures from the arts, entertainment and sports worlds, academics, young people, child abuse survivors and child safety experts have also come together to sign an open letter calling for EU lawmakers to pass the European Commission’s CSA proposal.

The letter asks: “We put safety caps on medicine bottles, helmets on heads, and stabilisers on bikes. We cover plug sockets, secure stairs, and fasten seatbelts. We have never been better at keeping our children safe – so why can’t we keep them safe online? Children’s right to be protected shouldn’t be limited to the offline world.”

Signatories include Aisling Bea, Laetitia Casta, Pierce Brosnan, Sharon Horgan, Axel Scheffler, Anke Kuhl, Chris Haughton, Clare Azzopardi, David Machado and Sarah Crossan.

Youth activist Taveres Ferreira said: “Every second, at least two images or videos of child sexual abuse are shared online. This equates to over 52,000 images or videos in a working day, of which more than 60% are uploaded to servers in Europe. Behind each of these is someone who has to live with the long-term trauma from their abuse, the horrendous violation of their privacy, and the circulation of their images online. We need to act to clean up the internet from criminals who use it to harm our children.

“The Regulation currently discussed at the EU level is absolutely vital to ensure that all online platforms make sure their services are safe for children and that they detect and remove child sexual abuse materials. We are here to urge EU leaders in Brussels and throughout the EU to take action to clean up the internet and make it a safe place for children.”

In 2022, 40% of the child sexual abuse webpages found online featured a child under 10, and more of the most horrific categories of abuse were found online than ever before, according to the IWF.

This is a problem that the EU is at the heart of, as 60% of child sexual abuse reported is hosted in an EU member state.

Internet Watch Foundation CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE said: “The IWF is proud to be walking alongside fellow child protection organisations and activists and survivors in support of this vital legislation to prevent the spread of child sexual abuse material online.

“These new laws would require online service providers to prevent, detect, report and remove these abhorrent images and videos on their networks and platforms, some of which continues to haunt survivors years after the abuse has happened.

“New IWF data shows that EU hosting of child sexual abuse material has increased by 26% so far this year, compared with the same period last year. And EU servers are hosting even more of the most extreme kinds of child sexual abuse imagery, which can include rape, bestiality, and sadism.

“This is why EU lawmakers need to take a stand. They cannot turn a blind eye and must push to finish negotiations on the regulation aimed at fighting child sexual abuse online.”

Brave spokesperson Mié Kohiyama, survivor, member of the Brave Movement and founder of Brave Movement France said: “I do not know if I will ever truly heal the trauma of being raped as a 5-year-old. I can’t imagine the horror of my abuse being online, available for predators and criminals to view and monetise. But this is the fate of thousands of children and survivors.

“The number one demand from survivors is to have their material removed from the internet and this can simply not be done without detection tools. Victims of online child sexual abuse not only suffer ‘hands-on’ abuse but continue to suffer each time child sexual abuse material is distributed or viewed. That’s why I use my voice to defend these children, to prevent more children suffering at the hands of abusers profiting from technology to spread their heinous crimes. We plead with EU leaders today – please protect children and honour survivors. Please pass this regulation.”

*

The ECLAG coalition is formed of more than 60 child rights organisations working across the EU to raise awareness of the pressing need to protect children online in our ever developing digital world. The Steering Group of the coalition is made up of the Brave Movement, ECPAT International, Eurochild, the Internet Watch Foundation, Missing Children Europe, Terre des Hommes International Federation and Thorn.

**

The Regulation was first proposed in May 2022 by the European Commission and will impose obligations on platforms to perform risks assessments and adopt risk mitigation measures on child sexual abuse. It will also allow for national jurisdictions to issue detection and removal orders of child sexual abuse material. The legislation will create an EU Centre which will be in charge of assessing which technologies can be used by platforms and which will ensure the sharing of best practices across the EU.

Tags

Wizz partners with IWF to fight child sexual abuse on the internet

Wizz partners with IWF to fight child sexual abuse on the internet

Wizz, a social discovery app that allows users from 13 to 24 to meet and chat with people their own age has come on board as a new Member of the Internet Watch Foundation.

23 May 2024 News
Aylo and IWF partnership ‘paves the way’ for adult sites to join war on child sexual abuse online

Aylo and IWF partnership ‘paves the way’ for adult sites to join war on child sexual abuse online

The ‘world first’ standards will help to ‘set and raise’ standards to prevent the upload and distribution of online child sexual abuse imagery.

17 May 2024 News
Biggest telecoms and digital services company in NZ plays its part in securing a safer internet for all

Biggest telecoms and digital services company in NZ plays its part in securing a safer internet for all

Spark joins the Internet Watch Foundation as a Member, helping to keep the internet free from child sexual abuse content.

16 May 2024 News