Good afternoon

Welcome to the seventh EU Internet Forum Ministerial Meeting.

Security starts with law enforcement. So welcome ministers, responsible for security.

In a digital world, law enforcement and lawmakers need to work across national and EU borders. So I welcome Europol, which is crucial for security on this continent. And also EU agencies, UN bodies and the Australian e-safety Commissioner. Happy to have you here Julie.

In a digital world, we can only protect people by working with industry. That is the purpose of this Forum.

So I welcome all companies here today. Also our newcomers Discord, TikTok, Twitch and Yubo: welcome

And we can only protect society, with the help of society. So I am glad the We Protect Alliance is here.  And the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, and Tech Against Terrorism.

Like all of us, criminals are moving online. And so are the traces of their crimes.

To catch and convict criminals, law enforcement needs access to evidence. And that means: lawful access to data.

In at least 85 per cent of investigations today, evidence is now digital.

Law enforcement faces three key challenges.

First: Digital crimes are cross border almost by definition. So is the evidence. Almost two thirds of digital evidence is hosted in a different Member State when it comes to the EU.

Second: Encryption. We need encryption. We all use encryption to shop online, to bank online, to protect medical information. But now private communication is increasingly encrypted. Which is abused by criminals to commit and hide their crimes.

Third: the massive volumes of data. Recently German investigative journalists helped take down 13 Terabytes of child sexual abuse material. They calculated that’s one whole year of non stop watching high definition video.

In the Encrochat case, SKY/ECC and operation Trojan Shield police captured hundreds of millions of messages about drug deals, violence, murders, corruption.

Far too much for human eyes and hands to handle.

On top of that, data can disappear at the touch of a button. In one case, it took police a year to decode a mobile phone. By that time the IP-addresses they found were no longer valid.

So in short: even if police are lawfully entitled to access data. They often can’t, for practical reasons.

But there are things we can do.

First: Innovation. Artificial intelligence can help law enforcement to cope with massive volumes of data. Under its new mandate,  Europol will be able to develop artificial intelligence to assist investigations.

Second: Cooperation. Just today I presented proposals to improve operational police cooperation and information exchange in the European Union. I’ve made sure that, under its new mandate, Europol will be able to work directly with private companies.

And then of course: Regulation. Companies, countries and citizens want clarity. The call for regulation is getting louder. And I am answering that call.

And next year, I will propose a way forward to address issues with lawful access to encrypted information.

And we also need to discuss data retention.

This summer, the EU adopted the Terrorist Content Online Regulation.

Unprecedented legislation with cross border effect. From next June, authorities can issue removal orders to take down terrorist content online. Anywhere in the European Union. Within the hour.

We will closely monitor how successful this regulation is in taking down terrorist content.

Terrorism remains a persistent threat,

Footage of the murder of the teacher Samuel Paty and the Christchurch attacks can still be found online. Mainly on smaller unmoderated platforms. On major platforms, terrorists and their sympathisers hide by putting on masks, pretending to be moderate.

Algorithmic amplification can lead people towards extremist content. One major challenge is the amplification of legal but harmful content. So called “borderline content”, and its manipulation. Which can radicalise people online.

Covid conspiracy theories are booming on the Internet and in social media.

And they are inspiring violence in the real world. A firebomb attack on a Dutch journalist. The killing of a petrol station attendant in Germany. Violent riots in Brussels, Rome, and Rotterdam against corona measures.

Very worrying are reports of young children radicalising online.

In Estonia, a 13 old boy was the founder of a right-wing extremist group. Other members were between 14 and 20 years old. Out of 121 arrests for terrorism-related activities in Britain, 24 were younger than 18 years old.

Kids and teenagers like video games. Islamists and violent far right extremists are using this to poison our children. By gamifying violence. With scoreboards showing rankings of kills in real attacks. Filming real attacks to look like video games. Or by modifying or making their own video games. One self-made terrorist game resembled the Christchurch attack.

In Luxembourg, one teenager became radicalised in this ecosystem of video games, audio chats and live streams. He had already started to build bombs. Before he was stopped by police.

I have put this new and dangerous development on our agenda today. The Internet Forum is the right place to work together against this threat.

I’m glad several of the new companies that joined the Forum have a lot of expertise in online video gaming.

This Forum delivers concrete solutions. To counter the rising threat of far right extremism. This year the Forum produced a Knowledge Package on Violent Right-Wing extremist groups, symbols and manifestoes. To help industry to identify problematic content online.

Protecting our children must be our top priority. That’s why we must also together step up the fight against child sexual abuse.

We must turn on the light. Children are suffering in the dark. Small children.

In the US, 52 percent of offences include videos of toddlers and babies, being raped.

Just last week, German journalists published a detailed investigation. They interviewed a father. A neighbour raped his daughter. Between age one and three. He tied this little girl down with wire and tape. And raped her.

It destroyed this family. Causing separation and suicide. And now, twelve years later, the images are still online. The father feels powerless. Unable to stop the rapes online from happening again, and again and again.

The Internet should be a child’s school, library, playground. And not a hunting ground for predators.

Who groom vulnerable children. Mislead children into sending them naked pictures so they can blackmail them.

As with the terrorists, these perpetrators increasingly infiltrate video games. Grooming attempts increased by 13 per cent last year.

We need you, the companies, to detect and report child sexual abuse. And to take it down.

Last year companies sent 22 million reports, of 65 million images and videos. Up from 17 million reports the year before.

Allowing police to rescue children.

But this year, the light briefly went out. As a result of legal uncertainty in EU legislation, some companies stopped detecting and reporting. Reports dropped by two thirds.

This summer, the co legisators adopted emergency legislation I had launched to clear up this uncertainty.

Just recently, Meta – responsible for 95 % of all reports – started detecting and reporting again. Thank you for that.

Terrorism and child sexual abuse are different threats. But in both cases, our children are a target. Which makes action all the more important.

I am:

Promoting law enforcement innovation

Boosting police cooperation and information exchange.

And putting forward regulation.

The terrorist attacks, the abuse and rapes happen offline. But these crimes are inspired online, planned online, plotted online and propagated online.

So for the companies, it’s important for us to work together with you, to have a close cooperation. But I want to be clear, we have higher expectations, of your responsibility.

I ask you first of all: take down terrorist content. Detect and report and remove child sexual abuse material. I will propose legislation early next year. Which we will discuss later this afternoon.

Second: support law enforcement to carry out investigations. Soon, Europol’s new mandate will allow companies to work directly with Europol.

Third: Do what you do best. Use technological know-how and design. I want to hear more today about industry solutions. De-platforming, safety by design. How do you moderate harmful content? Prevent algorithms from spreading it? How do you make sure children don’t see things, they are not meant to see?

And I ask you to help the smaller companies out there. Moderation by big companies is showing positive results.

But in response, the extremists simply move to smaller and unmoderated platforms.

That won’t make us more secure.

Thank you for listening to me.

I look forward to our discussion.