Saturday

21st Jan 2017

Focus

Child-proof the Internet or face regulation warns EU Commission

  • The EU Commission has warned that it will propose regulation if the software industry fails to protect children online. (Photo: Bombardier)

The European Commission has threatened to table a comprehensive set of child internet safety rules if the software industry fails to self-regulate to protect children online.

Unveiling its "European strategy for a better internet for children' on Wednesday (2 May), the Commission said that with 75% of children regularly accessing the web, targeted measures were needed to protect them online and improve digital literacy.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Among its proposals, the EU executive has called on the IT industry to draw-up an EU-wide mechanism allowing children to report harmful content, age-appropriate privacy settings, and make stricter use of age rating to prevent children from accessing violent or pornographic material online.

But it warned that it would propose binding legislation "if self-regulation fails to deliver".

In January, a group of the world’s leading information and communication technology firms launched an industry Coalition for a Safer Internet for Children and Young People. In it they set out plans to develop panic buttons and a “report trigger” by mid-2012 to make it easy for parents and children to report harmful content.

In their mission statement, the coalition claimed that they would work to “ensure that children and young people obtain the greatest benefit from new technologies, while avoiding the challenges and risks which are of concern to people worldwide.”

The move by the Commission is an attempt to respond to rising concerns among parents and policy-makers that light-touch online regulation is failing to combat on-line bullying and grooming on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as child sex abuse on the Internet. In 2010, a report by the IWF identified over 16,700 instances of child sexual abuse content on the web, while a survey conducted by the EU Kids Online project reported that 4 in 10 children had communicated with strangers online, been exposed to dangerous content or suffered cyber-bullying.

There are also fears about new online services, particularly with tablet phones, that pose new threats to child safety. The market for mobile phone apps, which are widely used by under-16s, and which has been described as a regulatory 'wild west', was a €5bn industry in 2011 and is expected to soar to €32bn by 2015. Meanwhile, new software such as geo-location can be used to trace a child's location.

The Commission also demanded swift implementation by industry of legislation aimed at combating child sex abuse and pornography, as well as e-commerce and data protection rules, citing IWF evidence that over 40% of websites promoting child sex abuse were hosted in either Europe or Russia.

Launching the strategy with fellow Commissioners Viviane Reding and Neelie Kroes, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström commented that "young people are particularly at ease with the use of the Internet but they are still vulnerable to online threats."

She added that it was vital to "reinforce cooperation at European and international levels to combat cybercrime, and especially the most horrible acts such as sexual exploitation."

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey