But first, it is essential the European Parliament and Council reach an agreement on the emergency legislation I proposed to allow Internet companies to continue voluntarily reporting child sexual abuse to the authorities.
The number of voluntary reports has dropped by 46 per cent since the European Electronics Communications Code entered into force in December last year, which unintentionally created legal uncertainty for companies submitting voluntary reports.
Police in Europe depend on these voluntary reports to save children. In one year alone, companies referred 100,000 newly produced videos to law enforcement. If an agreement is not reached, this will end. Abused children will remain in the dark.
We cannot allow this to happen. The deadlock must end as soon as possible. An agreement must be found on this emergency legislation. An agreement that effectively enables companies to continue detecting known and new material, and grooming. It can be done, I am convinced of that.
But we need to do more, as we set out in our EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse.
We also need long-term solutions to counter the exponential growth in child sexual abuse online. In the last ten years, reports of child sexual abuse increased from 1 million to 17 million worldwide.
Images and videos cross national and European borders in an instant. Abuse committed in one country or continent, is watched in another. Internet companies don’t often know, where this abuse is taking place.
I have proposed a stronger mandate for Europol, who are essential in the fight against child sexual abuse in Europe. Just a few weeks ago, Europol supported French police, who arrested 14 suspects of grooming 12 and 13 year olds on social media in operation ‘Horus’.
I want companies to be able to send Europol reports of child sexual abuse directly. Europol can then analyse the reports and alert the Member States in question.
I am also preparing permanent legislation, because we need good, clear, long term rules.
I am considering making it mandatory for companies to detect and report known child sexual abuse materials to public authorities. Voluntary reporting is good. But not good enough. A lot of sexual abuse goes undetected.
I am also considering setting up a European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the United States is an important ally. Police in Ireland received over 80 per cent of their tips from NCMEC. And only 20 per cent from parents and guardians. It’s time for Europe to have its own centre. To build on Europol’s work, to work with companies and law enforcement bodies, to identify victims and bring offenders to justice.
I am now considering the possibilities, and for that I need your help.
National authorities, police and law enforcement bodies who fight this crime. Civil society organisations – who work to protect children, who support victims or deal with prevention. Businesses, academic experts, and any citizen, who wants to support the fight against child sexual abuse.
I need your knowledge, your expertise, your experience in the day-to-day fight against this crime.
What more can we do, to fight child sexual abuse online more effectively?
What more can we do, to keep children safe?
I am very interested in your opinion.
Please, fill in the public consultation here.