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Protect children from exploitation and mass surveillance online!

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Today, 18 November, is European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Children and young people need special legal protection, online and offline. The Pirates therefore call for more resources to be allocated to methods that have been demonstrably successful and being currently neglected, instead of investing in ineffective and easily circumvented mass surveillance, data retention and chat control.

In Europe, about 20% of all children are exposed to some form of sexual violence every year, of which 70-85% of the victims know the perpetrators. The goal of protecting children is too serious and the consequences of assaults are too tragic to instrumentalise for totalitarian and populist surveillance plans such as #ChatControl. Studies and statistics show that untargeted mass surveillance actually makes the work of the police in most cases more difficult. That is why the Pirate Party MEPs call on governments and police authorities to finally focus on the following effective measures in law enforcement, but which have been neglected for years.

>> Deleting instead of snooping

Law enforcement agencies must finally be obliged to report exploitative images known to them online for deletion. Neither Europol nor federal polices such as the German one report abuse material known to them to data storage services. A legal obligation for law enforcement to report and delete is neither in force nor planned.

>> Strengthening the capacity of law enforcement

Currently, the capacity of law enforcement is so inadequate it often takes months and years to follow up on leads and analyse collected data. Known material is often neither analysed nor removed. Those behind the abuse do not share their material via Facebook or similar channels, but on the darknet. To track down perpetrators and producers, undercover police work must take place instead of wasting scarce capacities on checking often irrelevant machine reports. It is also essential to strengthen the responsible investigative units in terms of personnel and funding and financial resources, to ensure long-term, thorough and sustained investigations. Reliable standards/guidelines for the police handling of sexual abuse investgations need to be developed and adhered to.

>> Addressing not only symptoms, but the root cause

Instead of ineffective technical attempts to contain the spread of exploitation material that has been released, all efforts must focus on preventing such recordings in the first place. Prevention concepts and training play a key role because the vast majority of abuse cases never even become known. Victim protection organisations often suffer from unstable funding.

>> Fast and easily available support for (potential) victims

                1.            Mandatory reporting mechanisms at online services: In order to achieve effective prevention of online abuse and especially grooming, online services should be required to prominently place reporting functions on the platforms. If the service is aimed at and/or used by young people or children, providers should also be required to inform them about the risks of online grooming.

                2.            Hotlines and counseling centers: Many national hotlines dealing with cases of reported abuse are struggling with financial problems. It is essential to ensure there is sufficient capacity to follow up on reported cases.

>> Improving media literacy

Teaching digital literacy at an early age is an essential part of protecting for protecting children and young people online. The children themselves must have the knowledge and tools to navigate the Internet safely. They must be informed that dangers also lurk online and learn to recognise and question patterns of grooming. This could be achieved, for example, through targeted programs in schools and training centers, in which trained staff convey knowledge and lead discussions. Children need to learn to speak up, respond and report abuse, even if the abuse comes from within their sphere of trust (i.e., by people close to them or other people they know and trust), which is often the case. They also need to have access to safe, accessible, and age-appropriate channels to report abuse without fear.

For more information, check out our website: www.chatcontrol.eu