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14th Aug 2022

Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules

  • It is estimated that about 62 percent of all known child sexual abuse material was hosted in an EU country
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The amount of online child sexual abuse material hosted in Germany has risen by nearly 10-fold compared to 2020, a report found on Tuesday (5 July).

Figures from the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) show that the Netherlands, France, Latvia and Germany are the countries hosting the largest amount of known child sexual abuse material in the EU.

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The report comes in the wake of the European Commission plan in May to prevent and combat child sexual abuse online, establishing new rules on online platforms and providers to tackle online child sex abuse.

But the proposal has faced a backlash from privacy activists, some MEPs and some EU capitals who argue that new rules could entitle mass surveillance that could undermine whistle-blowers, lawyers or journalists' work.

The main opposition to the commission proposal is coming from the Netherlands and Germany, despite being among the worst for hosting child sexual abuse content, Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said in a statement.

"It is time to see a real, coordinated response to rooting this harmful material out and making sure criminals cannot find safe havens on European shores," she added, pointing out that the draft legislation is not about "breaking encryption, but protecting children".

Under the new rules, service providers, including messaging app providers such as WhatsApp, Apple's iMessage, Instagram and Telegram, will have to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse material from their platforms.

Berlin has previously slammed the EU's child-sexual abuse draft law for going too far.

Yet, the commission warned in May that the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated the issue.

In 2021, the IWF removed a total of 252,000 URLs with images and videos of child sexual abuse globally.

The foundation estimates that about 62 percent of all known child sexual abuse material was hosted in an EU country — of which Germany hosts around three precent of the global total.

In Germany, analysts found 8,219 confirmed reports of URLs containing one or more photos or videos of child sexual abuse hosted in 2021 — up from just 838 confirmed instances found the previous year, IWF says.

Overall, the Brussels-based NGO Missing Children Europe estimates that one-in-five children in Europe become victims of sexual abuse.

New rules will have to be backed by MEPs and the EU member states before entering into force.

EU to announce new mandatory rules on child sexual content

The European Commission is set to propose new legislation requiring companies to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse content. The rules come amid other moves by the EU's police agency Europol to develop AI targeting encryption.

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