Digital Single Market
Digital Economy & Society

Action 40: Member States to implement harmful content alert hotlines

The action aimed at Member States to fully implement hotlines for reporting illegal online content, organise awareness raising campaigns on online safety for children, and offer teaching online safety and digital literacy in schools, and encourage providers of online services to implement self-regulatory measures regarding online safety for children by 2013.

A European strategy for a better internet for children was launched in 2012 to provide children the digital skills to benefit safely from being online. The strategy brings together the European Commission and Member States with mobile phone operators, handset manufacturers and providers of social networking services to deliver concrete solutions for a better internet for children. This action is linked to Action 36.

What is the problem? Children are not safe online

Internet has become one of the main distribution channels for material (images, films, audio files etc.) depicting sexual abuse of children. Internet Watch Foundation confirmed 1.561 child abuse domains in 2012. The content is becoming worse over years: more than 50% of the images reported to the largest hotline depict serious abuse of a child; 80% of the victims are under the age of 10.

More and more European children go online via mobile phones, game consoles and tablets. More than 50% of 13-16 year olds go online from their bedroom and more than half of 9-16 year olds have a social networking profile. At the same time, young people are a vulnerable group as they do not always see the risks of their online actions, such as sharing personal information online or talking to people they have never met in real life.

Why is the EU action required?

To improve online child safety and to ensure that children across the EU enjoy similar levels of protection and service online, an EU-wide coordination is not only needed but necessary.

Addressing risks and strengthening the online safety and digital literacy of children is a shared responsibility of individuals as much as of private and public bodies, both at home and globally.

The Commission supports the development of hotlines for reporting illegal online content (see action 36). It also encourages self-regulation by European service providers (see action 37). At the same time, while action in this field should be coordinated at EU level, it has to be implemented at national level. Thus, Member States are expected to provide the necessary financial and political support to Safer Internet Centres in their respective national jurisdictions. They should also develop a strategy on how best to teach online safety in schools.

What has the Commission done so far?

  • Launched a European strategy for a better internet for children that aims to give children the digital skills and tools they need to fully and safely benefit from being online (action 36).
  • Launched a benchmarking exercise of safer internet policies and action across Europe including an analysis of the current resources used for these activities and their breakdown between the Commission and Member States
  • Online safety in schools: European Schoolnet (EUN) – co-ordinator of INSAFE network, co-funded by the Safer Internet Programme,  launched on Safer Internet Day 2012 the "eSafety label project" to provide Online safety support and accreditation for European schools. This is a multi-stakeholder project coordinated by EUN and involving a number of leading companies (Kaspersky Labs, Liberty Global, Microsoft, Telefonica) and European Education Ministries and educational organisations in Austria, Belgium-Flanders, Estonia Italy, Spain and Portugal).
  • The DAE implementation study undertaken by the Commission monitors the progress of Member States on this action, see here for the latest information available.

What will the Commission do in 2014?

  • Continue to monitor the implementation of this action by the Member States.
  • Continue to support the Safer Internet Centres established in all Member States and that run hotlines, awareness centres and helplines (see action 36).
Progress Report
Status: Completed Patricia Manson Patricia Manson