Childhood sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) affects at least one in five girls and one in ten boys across socio-economic backgrounds. This violence causes a life-shattering impact on children and their families, and also costs an estimated 7 trillion or 3% to 8% of global GDP annually through jeopardy of their unfulfilled potential. Between 2010 and 2020, there has been a 9,000% increase in abuse images online, according to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Internet Watch Foundation reported a record-breaking 252,000 URLs containing Child Sexual Abuse Materials in 2021.
The Brave Movement, a survivor-centered global movement fighting to end childhood sexual violence, is calling on the European Union (EU) to ensure a safe internet where children and adolescents are secure and free from all forms of sexual violence. The Brave Movement strongly backs the proposed EU Legislation to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse proposed by the European Commission under the leadership of the Commissioner for Home Affairs, with amendments, to ensure that it catalyzes a robust response to end childhood sexual violence in the EU. Nearly two-thirds of all known child sexual abuse material was traced to a European country in 2021, the EU needs to take bold action now to keep children safe.
The Brave Movement urges the European Parliament and Council of the EU to adopt robust legislation urgently during 2023. We believe it is important to ensure rapid passage of this historic regulation which will increase the safety of children, adolescents and future generations.
In the EU, digital spaces are in some cases completely unregulated – exposing children to the threat of horrific sexual violence and exploitation. Technology companies have the tools available to detect, report, and remove online sexual violence materials and grooming, and we will continue to put pressure on them to prioritize child safety ahead of anything else. This legislation should for the first time enforce mandatory rules on technology companies to detect, report, and remove sexual violence material which endangers children and adolescents and violates their rights.
The Brave Movement is calling for the creation of an EU Survivors’ Committee that would be led by adult survivors of online and offline childhood sexual violence from diverse backgrounds. EU Survivors’ Committee members, informed by their lived experience, would be able to provide invaluable policy recommendations and perspectives to the EU Centre and contribute to subsequent related policy actions taken by the EU Commission. This will strengthen the implementation of the proposed EU legislation, helping to prevent both online and offline childhood sexual violence, and support victims and survivors with healing, legal services, and technical services to remove their CSAM.
In summary, Brave Movement calls for:
- A proportionate, long-term solution and legal framework that allows automated technology to be safely used to detect Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) online.
- The EU to make detection, reporting, and removal of child sexual violence materials and grooming mandatory for all internet service providers and platforms that provide a service or have users in the EU.
- Encouragement of companies to engage in voluntary detection as they await reviews and mandatory detection orders from the EU Centre.
- The legislation to mandate the use of grooming detection tools and deterrence mechanisms that disrupt pathways to offending against children, as well as classifiers to detect first-generation or ‘new’ material and tools to detect “known” material. This should be within a strong legal framework and with all necessary judicial safeguards to balance privacy rights.
- The legislation to enable the development and deployment of technical solutions that help to eliminate, mitigate, or reduce threats to children’s safety, well-being, or rights in the rapidly evolving digital environment, including gaming and the metaverse.
- The legislation to establish an EU Centre to tackle childhood sexual violence in Europe, that is harmonized to fit into the existing EU and global child safety governance architecture, and which includes a Survivors’ Committee
We call on all stakeholders in the European Union to #BeBrave to keep our children safe.