Lawmakers back fix absent deal to block child sexual abuse material online

The European Parliament today voted in favour of extending a temporary solution to combat child sexual abuse material online, as a deal on proposed legislation will unlikely be reached before the end of the mandate of this European Commission.


Lawmakers of the parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, with a majority of 49 of 66 members, agreed to give the greenlight to start discussions with the 27 EU member states in order to keep temporary rules in place.

The committee’s position needs to be endorsed by the parliament as a whole before negotiations with EU countries can start, this could happen as early as 12 February.

The vote comes as EU negotiations on rules to combat online child sexual abuse (CSAM), presented in May 2022 by the European Commission, are in deadlock. Under the proposal, online platforms and service providers would face clear obligations to detect, report and remove access to such material. It also includes specific prevention, prosecution and protection responsibilities for national authorities in the member states.

The EU institutions did not manage to agree on a common stance so far; in particular the commission’s plan for detection orders that oblige digital messaging services to deploy client-side scanning technology to tap into users’ encrypted messages, faces resistance.

The parliament recently adopted its position on CSAM, acknowledging that scanning technologies are not compatible with the aim of having confidential and secure communications.

Lawmakers are supported by most privacy organisations who claim that even if this mechanism is created with the purpose of fighting crime online, it would also quickly be used by criminals themselves, putting citizens and businesses more at risk online by and increasing vulnerabilities for all users.

E-Privacy rules

In a joint call last week, more than 53 signatories, including tech lobby group DOT Europe and child advocacy organisation 5RightsFoundation, backed the commission’s proposal to extend the current e-Privacy rules. “If a permanent solution isn’t in place by 2027, we believe extending the temporary framework for at least two more years is crucial,” the letter said.

The e-Privacy derogations, which currently ensure child safety online and mean that companies can voluntarily scan their services, will expire on 3 August of this year. The parliament calls for a one-off extension until May 2025, whereas the member states want the rules to last another three years.

Birgit Sippel, a German lawmaker in charge of leading the file through the parliament, said that today’s vote means “a vote on measures that should have never been prolonged” in absence of a CSAM deal. “We need a short deadline for the council to adopt a position and to avoid a situation where they can take up to three years to take a stance,” she added.

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2024-01-31 14:00:17

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