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First parliamentary amendments on EU Child Sexual Abuse Regulation: Some poison teeth are pulled, but indiscriminate chat control still looming

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This week, the Social Democrat rapporteur of the opinion-giving Internal Market Committee in the European Parliament, Alex Saliba, proposed first amendments to the draft EU Child Sexual Abuse Regulation (CSAR), also known as chat control proposal.

Pirate Party MEP and Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur in the lead Home Affairs Committee (LIBE), Patrick Breyer, has a mixed assessment of the proposals:

“Colleague Saliba wants to pull various poison teeth from Commissioner Johansson‘s extreme proposal: The proposed deletion of mandatory age verification safeguards the right to anonymous communication, on which whistleblowers, among others, depend. The deletion of appstore censorship for young people safeguards their right to free and protected communication.

However, ineffective netblocks with collateral damage for many legitimate contents could still be imposed. Above all, indiscriminate chat control would still be implemented: Excluding encrypted communication and telephony, leaving AI algorithms out of it – all this would not change the fact that the end of digital secrecy of correspondence for most emails and chats is imminent. Digital privacy of correspondence does not only apply to encrypted communication!

Meta already indiscriminately searches all Facebook and Instagram private messages “only” for known material, but it is precisely this flood of mostly criminally irrelevant reports that drains law enforcement capacities that are missing for undercover investigations against abusers. This chat control leads to the mass accusation of innocent people (in 80-90% of all cases) and to the criminalisation of thousands of minors. To target law-abiding users without suspicion and indiscriminately violates fundamental rights and would not stand up in court.

Only a few days ago, the Social Democrats in the European Parliament promised in a digital strategy that the CSA regulation should not “lead to any form of mass surveillance”. This commitment needs to be honoured!”

Marcel Kolaja, Pirate MEP and shadow rapporteur in IMCO and in the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), comments:

“Although I am pleased that the opinion proposes some changes to the problematic parts of the Commission proposal, I believe it still approaches the problem from the wrong direction.

The proposal as well as the draft aims to protect children from sexual abuse. However, the proposed legislation will not achieve this. Instead of focusing on real protection, it wants to unleash mass surveillance.

Europe should rather choose the path of prevention and real protection, not snooping. Prevention is something we need to get better at. As the Commission found out, several countries have not even properly implemented the child sexual abuse directive from 2011, including Spain which will chair the upcoming Council presidency.”

Until 7 March, the other political groups can now propose amendments to the draft report of the Internal Market Committee (IMCO), which is to be finalised by the summer break. The leading LIBE Committee wants to finalise its position by September. The conservative Spanish rapporteur Zarzalejos then wants to strike a deal by the end of the year under the Council Presidency of his home country Spain and quickly adopt the regulation.