On 28 October, the Renew Europe Group published its first-ever position paper on the issue of online child abuse, commercial targeting and privacy infringement. In the paper, Renew Europe calls on EU policymakers to account for the interests of children throughout the EU lawmaking process within the digital field. At least one in five children in Europe have been victims of sexual violence, which is why the paper also recommends the creation of an independent EU centre to combat and prevent child sexual abuse.
Hilde Vautmans MEP (Open Vld, BE), Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights and co-author of the position paper, said:
“I see an important role for a future independent EU centre to combat and prevent child abuse by coordinating investigations into child sexual abuse, receiving and analysing reports and supporting EU Member States in adequate prevention and assistance programmes, as well as with the correct implementation of the Directive. Given the staggering figures of online child abuse, Europe must do better and ensure children can enjoy the digital world in a safe way.”
In the paper, Renew Europe also calls on the European Commission to develop a training programme helping children, parents and caregivers to build digital resilience to protect themselves against grooming, harassment and harmful content. In practice, this also means that future legislation should ensure that if a digital service is likely to be used by children, it should ensure age-appropriate design, content and advertising. This means that children should no longer be targeted with personalised online advertisements.
Liesje Schreinemacher MEP (VVD, NL), Member of the European Parliament Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee and co-author of the position paper, said:
“The internet was never designed for children, but they have become a large and commercially interesting group that is exploited by companies and individuals online. New European rules present an opportunity to renew the online environment to empower children to make real choices about their online experiences. At the same time, the EU needs to stop harmful commercial practices that specifically target children, just like in the offline world.”
The paper’s recommendations call for the existing network of National Safer Internet Centres to be strengthened and for digital service providers to submit risk assessments together with proportionate measures.
Lastly, digital service providers should use state-of-the-art technology that is evidence-based, proportionate and accompanied with adequate fundamental rights safeguards and human review to detect sexual child abuse.
You can read position paper with recommendations for a safer internet for children here.