The European Commission (EC) has put forward a new regulation that would require online platforms to proactively search for and take down “child abuse material” and also in response to “detection orders” issued by member states. This proposed regulation follows the enactment of last year’s temporary departure from the ePrivacy Directive “for the purpose of combating online child sexual abuse.” The EC claims this new proposal will not interfere with the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will remake how the European Union polices the online world nor with the general Data Protection Regulation that governs the processing and sharing of personal data. EU member states would need to designate agencies to enforce the new regime, and a new EU entity would be established to help with enforcement and compliance.
The EC contended in its press release that “[t]he current system based on voluntary detection and reporting by companies has proven to be insufficient to adequately protect children and, in any case, will no longer be possible once the interim solution currently in place expires.” The EC added:
To effectively address the misuse of online services for the purposes of child sexual abuse, clear rules are needed, with robust conditions and safeguards. The proposed rules will oblige providers to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse material on their services. Providers will need to assess and mitigate the risk of misuse of their services and the measures taken must be proportionate to that risk and subject to robust conditions and safeguards.
In concert with the proposed regulation, the EC published a European strategy for a Better Internet for Kids (BIK+) “to improve age-appropriate digital services and to ensure that every child is protected, empowered and respected online.” The EC claimed that the new strategy “sets out the vision for a Digital Decade for children and youth, based on three key pillars:
§ Safe digital experiences, protecting children from harmful and illegal online content, conduct, and risks and improving their well-being through a safe, age-appropriate digital environment.
§ Digital empowerment so that children acquire the necessary skills and competences to make informed choices and express themselves in the online environment safely and responsibly.
§ Active participation, respecting children by giving them a say in the digital environment, with more child-led activities to foster innovative and creative safe digital experiences.