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20th Jan 2019

EU wants to block child pornography sites

The EU commission on Monday (29 March) proposed that access to internet sites offering child pornography images and videos be blocked in all member states.

"Child pornography is a horrible crime. It is not an expression of freedom of speech," EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said during a press briefing in Brussels.

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  • The EU commission wants to pull the plug on child porn sites (Photo: Flickr)

"If police can confiscate leaflets, books, and videos with child pornography, it should also be able to shut down sites. The internet is not a safe haven for criminals," she argued.

Under the proposal, systems would be developed by member states to block access to such sites. Agreements with internet providers should also be encouraged, and users should be notified as to why access was blocked.

Such systems are already in place in Scandinavian countries, Italy and Great Britain and "stop thousands of requests each day," Ms Malmstrom said.

The proposal also calls for criminal prosecution of activities such as 'grooming', where adults pretend to become friends with children in order to sexually abuse them, and sex tourism, even if the child abuse has taken place outside the EU.

Also, children's rights would be protected, for instance by allowing video testimonies in court so as not to traumatise them further with testifying in front of an adult jury about their experiences.

Blocking sites at the source is preferable, she added, but this is a more difficult task, given that sites are often based outside the EU or have scrambling devices altering their traceable location several times a day.

The Swedish politician stressed that she personally guarantees this measure would only apply to access to child pornography sites and not to other purposes, restricting the users' freedom and rights.

She admitted that some computer-savvy users would be able to circumvent the blockades, but "most people are not experts," including paedophiles. Also, the "preventive element" should not be underestimated.

The proposal needs the approval of both the member states and the European Parliament. But already German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she would oppose the move and opt for erasing such sites instead of blocking access to them.

"The German government rejects internet blockades. They don't represent an effective means in fighting child pornography, while instead leading to greater mistrust on the part of internet users," the minister told the Hamburger Abendblatt.

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