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Patrick Breyer on Chat Control: To ensure the safety of children online, we need a new approach!

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

Today, Conservative rapporteur Javier Zarzalejos presented his draft report on the proposal to combat child sexual abuse material (CSAR), also known as “chat control”, in the European Parliament’s lead Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Zarzalejos criticised the “chat control” label Breyer gives the proposal.

Patrick Breyer, Pirate Party MEP, Greens/EFA lead negotiator and long-time opponent of indiscriminate chat control, proposed a consensual, new approach to the file today in his speech:

“Dear Javier, dear colleagues,

the Commission’s CSA or chat control proposal is unprecedented in the free world. It divides child protection organisations, divides abuse victims, other stakeholders, even political groups into those who want to implement as much of this proposal as possible hoping it would make us a world leader on child protection, and those who want to reject the proposal altogether saying chat control would make us a world leader on mass surveillance, harm children and eliminate anonymity.

Here is the good news: if we – if you – decide to go for a consensual approach, keeping only the parts of the proposal that we all agree on but consensually adding new meaningful approaches, I am convinced that we can protect children much better, we can avoid annulment in court, we can achieve a consensus in society and a broad majority in parliament – imagine what a signal of unity this would send!

To do that, a new approach is needed:

  • We need to strictly limit the problematic scanning orders to persons presumably involved in child sexual exploitation. This is the only way to avoid annulment in court and achieving nothing at all for children. The draft report goes in the right direction but it doesn’t yet implement what all independent legal experts are telling us on exempting persons who have nothing at all to do with child sexual exploitation.
  • The same goes for not turning our personal devices into scanners in order to backdoor encryption.
  • We need to avoid untargeted „voluntary detection“ and „metadata scanning“ by industry which even the Commission advises against for being ineffective and undermining the proposed mandatory detection order system.
  • We need to remove age verification requirements to protect the right to communicate anonymously and avoid app censorship for the young generation.
  • Instead, we should mandate specific measures to make services safe by design – this is true prevention. We’ll make proposals on this.
  • Rather than trying and failing to block CSEM via access providers or search engines, we should make it mandatory to remove CSEM at its source for hosters and LEAs that are aware of it – hard to believe that the proposal fails to do this.
  • The EU Center needs a new focus on prevention, victim support, research and best practices for law enforcement.
  • There are promising ideas also in your draft report such as a Victims’ Consultative Forum and „privacy, safety, and security by design and by default“. Thank you for those, Javier.

So, colleagues, let us work together to develop a new approach to truly prevent child sexual exploitation online while upholding children’s rights, victims’ rights, everybody’s fundamental rights. I look forward to working with you.”

Patrick Breyer’s written assessment of the draft report