Just over two weeks ago, a mob stormed the Capitol in Washington.
That this could happen in the United States comes as a shock for many of us.
The Internet gives a voice to people, connects people, unites people.
But it also gives a voice to demagogues, and mobilised the mob in Washington.
The Internet can be an amazing force for democracy. It must never become a tool for autocracy.
Internet companies are taking responsibility. Calling out disinformation. Banning users calling for violence. Voluntary action is good. It needs to continue. But it’s not enough
Government also has a responsibility. Only politicians who answer to parliaments elected by people can decide what is legal and illegal. Not private companies.
The European Union has a responsibility. Because the Internet knows no borders. And we’re a market of 400 million people. We can inspire others around the globe to follow our lead.
And I have a responsibility. To work with you. All present here. National governments. Europol. Internet companies. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. And the United Nations.
To make sure criminals, terrorists and child sex abusers never gain the upper hand online.
The EU Internet Forum is a model of this cooperation
The Forum, that’s five years of joint struggle. Five years to stop terrorists and violent extremists posting propaganda, recruiting new followers and streaming their attacks online.
In those five years, Europol referred 130,000 pieces of terrorist content for removal.
I look forward to the presentation by industry on your efforts, to remove this poisonous content.
Those numbers translate into people not radicalised. Bombs not made. Attacks not carried out. Tragedies avoided. Lives not lost.
One month ago, the European Council and European Parliament reached a political agreement on the Commission’s terrorist content online proposal. I’m very happy about that
Soon, Member States can order all providers that offer services in the EU to take down terrorist content within one hour.
Anywhere in the European Union. And they can enforce compliance with penalties.
This new legislation is important but will not solve all our problems. We need to continue to work together, operationally, and in this Internet Forum.
Our new EU Crisis Protocol helps to keep terrorist attacks from going viral online.
We must learn from last year’s attacks in France and Austria to fine-tune and improve our collective response.
Right wing extremism is on the rise. We must be just as alert in taking down far right content, as we are in taking down jihadi content.
Police and Internet companies must be able to recognise far right groups and symbols – and that’s why the reference list is so important. We must also stop the spread of extremism online. By addressing the business model that fuels it.
In the quest to maximise watch time. To boost advertising and profit. Algorithms recommend content to people. And pull people down Internet rabbit holes. Potentially exposing people to ever more extreme content. Or criminal content.
Criminals, violent extremists and terrorists know how to exploit these algorithms to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories that already fuel violence. Washington is only the most recent example.
I very much welcome that the EU Internet Forum has expanded its horizon to include child sexual abuse.
This weekend, President Macron spoke out strongly against child sexual abuse.
I welcome his measures to prevent abuse, protect children and punish perpetrators.
The fight against this horrible crime is my number one priority. In the last ten years, child sexual abuse material has increased exponentially online.
From one million reports to 17 million reports worldwide.
The predators’ business model fuels this increase.
The price to watch child sexual abuse material, is to provide new child sexual abuse material.
In other words, to watch videos of children being raped, predators must rape children.
I want Europe to lead the fight against this crime.
Police can rescue children, because big Internet companies voluntarily report child sexual abuse.
And here I really have to thank you today. For detecting, removing and reporting child sexual abuse. For developing technology, that detects this abuse.
In one year, companies sent law enforcement in Europe 100,000 newly produced videos.
Thanks to you, law enforcement in Europe can save children and prosecute perpetrators.
I want you to be able to continue this important work.
But on 21 December last year the new EU electronic communications code came into force.
With an unintended effect. New privacy rules created legal uncertainty.
About the legal basis, to report child sexual abuse material.
As a result, reports of child sexual abuse have dropped by almost 50 per cent since then.
To prevent this, I proposed earlier last year temporary legislation.
Now the European Parliament and Council really must come to an agreement. We must turn on the light again. Without delay. And without any more restrictions.
So that Internet companies can continue to voluntarily take down videos and photos of children being raped. And to prevent new abuses by detecting grooming.
I am now also working on permanent legislation. My aim is to make it obligatory for Internet companies to report and remove child sexual abuse.
I thank you for your support so far.
And I look forward to continue discussing this new proposal.
For this legislation to be effective, against child sexual abuse, I need your expertise. I need you to be involved.
Until those rules are agreed and enter into force, children depend on your voluntary efforts.
I want to work much more closely with you.
I have already proposed to boost Europol’s mandate, so Europol can work directly with private companies.
I will also propose to set up a European Centre to Prevent and Counter Child Sexual Abuse. Which will work with companies and law enforcement, to identify victims and bring offenders to justice.
And the Commission will continue to support you to use technical solutions, to detect child sex abuse in encrypted communications.
I look forward to our discussion today. But before we start just one fundamental point.
Digital technology has completely changed the way we live and work. Is fundamentally changing our economy and society.
The call for regulation is getting louder and louder. The European Commission will answer that call.
We must shape an Internet that is safe for people. And safe for democracy.
Together with Member States and together with businesses.
We face strategic decisions, that will shape the future of the Internet.
The EU Internet Forum is the right platform. To discuss these decisions.
We need to scale up our ambitions.
I would very much look forward to hear from you today, how we can do that. How can we further develop the Forum and our cooperation.