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Enlargement, 3 years after

European Commission - Enlargement - Enlargement, 3 years after - Fighting faceless enemies

Fighting faceless enemies: the new Member States join the EU's efforts to make the Internet safer for children.

The Internet is a hugely beneficial tool for millions of people across the EU. More and more, whether at home or in school, the Internet is also becoming an important part of children's lives.

The level of Internet use among children is highest in the 15 “old” EU Member States: Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK, for example, have a rate of 64%, followed closely by Sweden (63%) and Finland (62%). However, several new Member States are not far behind, like Estonia (60%) and the Czech Republic (58%).

Unfortunately, the widespread use of the Internet also opens opportunities for the proliferation of child-abusive images, paedophile rings, hate preachers and others. Most parents are not aware of the risks that their children encounter when surfing the Internet, and almost 60 % of Europe’s parents don't know where to report illegal and harmful content.

Hotlines are a key weapon in making the Internet safe for all users without resorting to unworkable censorship. They are effective because they allow people to report such content to either the police or Internet service providers.

The EU's Safer Internet Program aims at promoting safer use of the Internet and on-line technologies. Through the program, the EU provides financial support to over 20 hotlines. It also supports INHOPE, which coordinates the hotlines’ work, and INSAFE, which focuses on awareness-raising, helping to promote exchanges of best practices, provide expertise to policymakers and forge links with similar organizations worldwide.

A woman on the phone

The work of the different organizations participating in the programs has been very effective. In 2003, thanks to a report from the Spanish hotline "Protégeles", the German Police in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt and prosecutors in the city of Halle cracked one of the largest global child-pornography networks, involving some 26,500 Internet users in 166 countries. "Operation Marcy" has been one of the most significant successes against the international child- pornography scene.

Since 1 May 2004, the EU has 12 new allies in its efforts to make the Internet safer for children: the ten countries that joined the Union that year, plus Bulgaria and Romania since 1 January 2007.

In the last three years, hotlines have been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, and Slovenia; awareness contact points have been created in those countries plus Lithuania and Poland. Raising awareness about the dangers of the Internet for children and having hotlines in more countries increases the chances of effectively fighting illegal contents on the Internet.

Between September 2004 and March 2005, the network of hotlines collected almost 120,000 reports, of which around one third concerned child pornography.

The success of the Safer Internet Programs is another example of how, together with the EU's support, "old" and "new" Member States can join forces to fight faceless enemies on the Internet, making Europe safer for our children.

For more information on the Safer Internet Program, you may consult:

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Last update: 27/10/2011