EU plans tougher legislation against child abuse online

EU plans tougher legislation against child abuse online

New actions to protect children online have been announced by the EU Commission and UK’s Information Commissioner’s office (ICO). The EU Commission wants tougher rules against child sexual abuse online and ICO wants to secure that Meta operates in accordance with a new children’s code that priorities the “best interests” of young users.

The EU Commission plans to propose legislation that would force technology companies to make more to stop child sexual abuse. The announcement comes shortly prior EU member states in the European Council will start discussing how to implement the proposed Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts that among other things aim to create safer online space for users with stricter rules for platforms.

The expected legislation against child sexual abuse would mean strengthening the current voluntary rules, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

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“The sexual abuse of children on the Internet is on the rise. There is evidence that the abuse is becoming more and more extreme. In the coming months, I will propose legislation that obliges companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse”, she told the newspaper.

Johansson said that internet service providers and social media firms reported 22 million offences related to child sexual abuse in 2020, up from 17 million in 2019,

“I will propose legislation in the coming months that will require companies to detect, report, and remove child sexual abuse. A voluntary report will then no longer be sufficient.”

She said better coordination of abuse of children is needed including a specialist European Center for law enforcement and victim support.

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The fight against the abuse of minors must be coordinated throughout Europe and globally, she said. “I see a great need for a dedicated EU centre to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. Such a centre would make it possible to constantly improve both prevention and prosecution and support for victims.

At the same time, UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in a statement told The Guardian that it plans “further discussions” with Meta about the company’s Quest 2 virtual reality headset to check that kids using it is in compliance with a recently established children’s code that priorities the “best interests” of young users. ICO wants to check if Meta’s headset and VR services do enough to protect the privacy and data of kids.

Meta said the company is confident its VR hardware meet the code’s requirements. The company’s terms of service don’t allow children under 13. Critics have said kids can just tick a box to say they are old enough and join potentially dangerous VR chatrooms.

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