CEF cuts threaten EU’s commitment to protect children from online sexual exploitation
Because the Internet is global these crimes are perpetrated internationally and require international responses. Children can be subjected to online grooming through services hosted in other jurisdictions and paedophiles exchange images and videos of child sexual abuse across national borders.
Cooperation between member states and coordination at EU level is therefore essential to combat these issues. Up to now, this has been provided by the now-ending EU Safer Internet Programme (SIP).
Since 2000, through the SIP, the EU has been at the forefront of coordinating action against the distribution of child sexual abuse content, raising awareness of the issues and supporting research of children’s use of this rapidly evolving medium to allow better evidence based policy and action development. SIP has part-funded Hotlines in the EU which provide a service for the public to report suspected child sexual abuse content on the Internet. SIP also granted almost all the funding of INHOPE, (the coordinating body that facilitates interchange of validated notices between Hotlines).
INHOPE ensures officially recognised notices get relayed to the jurisdiction where Law Enforcement and Internet Service Provider (ISP) action must be taken to remove the illegal content from the Internet.
If CEF budget cuts result in INHOPE being unable to function effectively and Hotlines, often run on a shoestring by NGOs, are forced to close down, then the very structure on which ISPs rely to obtain official notice to act against illegal child sexual abuse content will collapse.
Furthermore the EU generates enormous goodwill stemming from international recognition of its leadership in establishing and supporting the INHOPE network, as this serves not only EU member states but other nations worldwide.
While ISPs (companies providing public Internet infrastructure) rely on notices from the INHOPE network to swiftly delete illegal child sexual abuse content from their servers, these INHOPE-coordinated notices also contribute essential information to law enforcement. This often initiates investigations which can identify perpetrators and lead to abused and endangered children being rescued from the abusive environment.
ISPAI letter to Irish MEPs on ITRE – European Parliamentary Committee dealing with allocation areas for slashed CEF budget can be found here.