On the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (#EndChildSexAbuseDay) on 18 November 2023, civil rights activist and MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party, Greens/EFA) calls for a rational debate on effective child protection rather than embracing mass surveillance solutionism:
“Paedocriminals can circumvent any form of surveillance, but a society tackling child protection in a rational way can make a real difference. As long as surveillance projects such as chat control and blanket data retention are confused with child protection, there will be a lack of political will to invest in direct and genuine child protection. Europe urgently needs a rational debate about effective child protection rather than embracing mass surveillance solutionism.
Statistically speaking, there are one or two children in every school class who have suffered sexualised violence (“Vor unseren Augen”, 2023, German only). In 70 to 85% of all cases, according to the Council of Europe, child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts. Perpetrators mainly lurk in the immediate vicinity and use strategies to gain trust and extort secrecy. In 90% of cases, the sexual offences are not reported to the police. Perpetrators benefit from the lack of awareness, education and professional handling of the issue of child sexual abuse.
On the Internet, organised criminals, unlike the majority of citizens, technically protect themselves from surveillance measures. The journalist and darknet expert Daniel Moßbrucker has succeeded in disrupting a paedocriminal forum and force it to give up. He calls on law enforcement agencies to initiate a paradigm shift. Their current tactics are allowing the darknet forums to grow, even though this could be curbed by proactive removal.
For better child protection, Europe needs mandatory protection programmes and responsible experts in schools, churches and sports clubs. Europe urgently needs long-term and well-funded awareness campaigns and counselling services, child and youth work as well as a strong civil society. When it comes to investigation, the solutions are raising public awareness, specially trained experts, long-term investigations, removal of child sexual exploitation content, targeted investigation orders and login traps.
It is misleading, inappropriate for the topic and contradicts the available science to claim that programmes of mass surveillance have an effect on structures and strategies of paedocriminality. Rather, the issue of child protection is being used as a pretext to politically enforce surveillance measures such as the lobbying project Chat Control or the blanket data retention of internet addresses. Our children and abuse victims deserve real, effective, court-proof and rights-respecting protection. Let’s stop spying and start protecting.”