The future of digital tools to detect child sexual exploitation and abuse in Europe
The Carly Ryan Foundation is a proud member of the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Online Child Sexual Exploitation.
The Alliance has recently released a briefing regarding the future of digital tools to detect child sexual exploitation and abuse online in Europe, since the European Electronic Communication Code came into effect in December 2020. Why is this important news for Australia?
It is good news for people located in Europe who want increased privacy and confidentiality to their online communications. However, the unintended consequence of increased protection mean that online child exploitation detection tools are now considered legally ambiguous. While some companies have committed to continue using OCSE detection tools (like Microsoft, Roblox, Snap Inc and Google), some have stopped (like Facebook). Ernie Allen (Chair of the Board of the Alliance) describes in this article, that the effect of removing detection tools has been immediate, with a 46% reduction in reports of child sexual exploitation. A reduction in reporting means a reduction in the ability of European law enforcement to identify offenders and child victims, with the knock-on effect felt by law enforcement in other jurisdictions.
Digital privacy and digital protection are not mutually exclusive. If we want the protection of children from sexual exploitation to remain an important value in our society, then we need to acknowledge the impact technology has in assisting the committing of those crimes. We need to plan for bad actors and make technology work for the protection of children, not against it.
As a member of the Alliance, the Foundation requests European decision-makers to resolve the status of online detection tools for child sexual exploitation as a matter of urgency.