“No hurdles for sharing abuse photos”

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has warned strongly against weakening the fight against the spread of photos and videos of abused children on the Internet. If there is no interim solution, there will soon be “no obstacles for pedophiles to upload and share,” said the Swede of the German press agency. She spoke of a “global disaster”. The background to this is that companies such as Facebook and Google messages sent via their services will soon no longer be allowed to scan with certain filters in the EU as things stand.

That is why Johansson is promoting the transitional arrangement. “I will never accept that the privacy of users is more important than the privacy of child victims.” It is of the utmost urgency that the EU states and the European Parliament come to an agreement by December 21st.

E-mails fall under the digital secrecy of letters

Because then the update of the code for electronic communication will take effect in the EU. Communication services such as e-mail or messenger programs will therefore in future fall under the EU’s digital confidentiality. Corporations such as Facebook, Google or Microsoft are no longer allowed to scan the messages via their mail and messenger services for abuse. So far, they have used certain technology to filter the messages sent to representations that are already known and have been provided with a type of digital fingerprint. According to its own information, the Federal Criminal Police Office also benefits from the information they receive in this way.

To enable this procedure to continue, the EU Commission proposed an interim solution in September. However, there are major reservations in the European Parliament and among data protectionists. Parliament still has to agree on its own position before it can start negotiations with the EU states.

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Brussels wants to avoid a new chaos at the borders

Faced with the multiplication of cases of contamination, the Twenty-Seven will try to agree on common rules.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS / AFP

Correspondent in Brussels

Red, orange, green and… gray. These are colors that European citizens will have to get used to when they intend to continue traveling on the continent. With the proliferation of Covid-19 contaminations in Europe and fears of a second wave, Germany, France and the Commission have decided to take the bull by the horns to try to restore order in the decisions taken by Member States.

Between Denmark which has closed its borders to the French, France completely open, Hungary – called to order by Brussels – which only tolerates travelers from other countries of the Visegrad club (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia), there is something to get lost in what Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson describes as “kaleidoscope of individual measurements“. Not to mention the measures, which vary greatly from one country to another, imposed on travelers upon their return from red zones: duration of the quarantine, number of

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EU wants to fight child abuse

DThe Federal Criminal Police Office receives most of the evidence of child abuse from the United States. The submitted more than 60,000 reports last year; investigative proceedings followed in 40,000 cases. This was the only way the German investigators tracked down the huge abuse networks in Bergisch Gladbach and Münster.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

In America there is an obligation to report for the Internet service providers based there. And a central collection point: the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NCMEC for short. The European Union is now taking this as an example. It wants to create a reporting obligation and a European center itself. This is the core of the new strategy to combat child sexual abuse, which the EU Commission decided on Friday.

“We need sharper instruments,” said interior commissioner Ylva Johansson. “Next year, we will push ahead with new legislation to require relevant social media and messaging services to detect, report, delete, and report (illegal) content to the appropriate authorities.”

The bill is scheduled for the second quarter of 2021. Johansson also proposed a European center for the prevention and fight against child abuse. It is supposed to collect the reports of all companies that offer their services in the European Union and to summarize them in a database. It will also become a hub for research and prevention expertise. The Commission sees major deficits here. It has also launched infringement proceedings against most Member States. They failed to implement a 2011 child abuse directive into national law.

Based on the American model

The exact mandate, the structures and also the financing of the planned center will be examined in the coming months, as the Swedish Commissioner announced. The American model NCMEC is formally a non-profit-oriented private institution that is financed with double-digit millions from the federal budget. It was created by Ronald Reagan in 1984 after several cases of child abduction churned the country. Last year the European Parliament pushed for the creation of a center for the EU.

There are good reasons for it. Over the past five years, the EU has become the center for child pornography sharing, said Johansson. According to the Internet Watch Foundation, two thirds of child abuse representations are now available from Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. Last year, more than 700,000 suspected cases related to potential victims and perpetrators in the EU were reported to the American agency; it was about three million pictures and 100,000 videos.

For comparison: in 2010 there were still 23,000 suspected cases. The numbers have exploded in the current year. In March alone, more than one million suspected cases from Europe were reported to the NCMEC. In a study, the EU police authority Europol pointed out the connection: online demand skyrocketed as more and more member states imposed exit restrictions due to the corona pandemic. And the victims were exposed to the perpetrators without protection.

A police car in front of the garden, in which the alleged main offender in Münster's child abuse case housed parts of his server system in a gazebo

Worldwide, the NCMEC recorded 17 million suspected cases with 70 million images and videos last year. One group alone reported 16 million cases: Facebook. This was mostly material that was exchanged via the Messenger messaging service. The EU Commission recognizes that Facebook is making a special effort to track down illegal content. She believes that other companies have to do a lot better. However, the Messenger service is causing her special stomach aches.

Facebook wants to ensure that users will exchange their messages encrypted in the future. Then today’s control tools would be ineffective. The NCMEC fears that the number of suspected cases could drop suddenly by up to two thirds. The EU Commission therefore wants to make the group and all other providers who already work with encryption responsible: It is “essential” that the industry with its products “assumes responsibility for protecting children, in line with the EU -Fundamental rights, including the protection of personal data and privacy, “says the strategy paper.

Comprehensive powers for Europol

The Commission also wants to upgrade Europol’s role. The police authority is to become a forum where member states exchange technologies to infiltrate illegal networks. In addition, in the future it should also be allowed to process personal data that are transmitted by private companies. The Commission intends to propose an expanded mandate for this. Europol has had a cybercrime center since 2014, which has identified 360 abused children and 150 perpetrators in the past six years. However, this was only possible if national investigative authorities turned to the Hague institution.

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Up to 30 percent higher demand for child pornography during Corona

I.In the fight against child sexual abuse, the EU Commission will shortly present an EU-wide package of measures for prevention and law enforcement. Among other things, the plans should include legislative measures, the responsible EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced in the “World” (Sunday, online). You should respond to requests from the European Parliament and the Member States.

Prevention strategies alone cannot be relied on, says Johansson. She emphasized: “We also have to enforce our laws if they are broken and show that our values ​​apply – both on the Internet and in real life.” In future, closer cooperation with Internet companies will be necessary. The Internet is “unfortunately a decisive factor” for the search of perpetrators for children as new victims.

The strategy also takes into account the establishment of a new EU center for child protection, explained Johansson. The aim is to take a closer look at how EU Member States could be supported in investigating, preventing and combating child abuse, through better cooperation among themselves, through new research and mutual exchange about successful measures.

Since the onset of the corona crisis, the demand for child sexual abuse material has increased by up to 30 percent in some member countries. At the same time, the American Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) recently recorded an increase of more than 400 percent in suspicious cases, from around a million reports in April 2019 to 4, according to the Commissioner. 1 million in April 2020.

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