NGO Report Shows Most Europeans Concerned About Child Safety Online

Over 76 percent of European parents would be willing to give up some of their privacy to tackle child sexual abuse online and combat potential abuse, a child safety NGO shows in the report from its new qualitative and quantitative research.

Revelations in the report prepared by ECPAT, a global network dedicated to fighting sexual abuse of children, show that nearly three in four European adults (73%) believe children can’t go online without being contacted by sex offenders.

Majority of Europeans – nearly 7 out of 10 people – also believe online privacy does not exist (68%) greatly outnumbering those who believe it does (25%).

Nearly 70% of respondents would also support a European law to mandate online platforms to use scanning technology for their photos and messages in order to detect and report images of abuse and grooming even though this means giving up certain personal privacy.

The report, based on the YouGov survey of nearly 9,500 people aged 18 to 55 in France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary, comes as a message to EU policymakers that are currently planning new regulation for detecting online child pornography.

The European Commission is due to release its own legislation in the next few months that will likely impose new obligations for tech companies to tackle illegal content posted to online platforms or in messaging services.

Child safety activists are already preparing aware of the uphill battle they will face with it.

Dorothea Czarnecki, ECPAT International’s deputy executive director, underlined their efforts to achieve dialogue and share very informed decisions, stressing the importance of representing the public opinion: what they want and expect from European institutions in protecting the future generations online.

The temporary law passed in July allowing companies to voluntarily scan and report child abuse enticed much controversy over its implications for privacy with the EU lawmakers and privacy activists criticizing rules and technologies that could weaken encryption and extend scanning of communications.

A recent report from the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit with EU funding that works to remove illegal content, showed a “mammoth” 1,420% increase in child sexual abuse material online in the last decade.  In 2020 alone, it found and reported 153,350 – up from around 13,000 in 2011- instances of abuse.

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