Combatting child sexual abuse online

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Tuairim ó CESE: Combatting child sexual abuse online

Administrator: Ágota BAZSIK, Assistant: Dániel MAKAY

Foreseen for the EESC Plenary session: 27-29 October 2020

Gist of the Commission document

The fight against child sexual abuse is a priority for the EU.

On 21 December 2020, with the entry into application of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), the definition of electronic communications services will be replaced by a new definition, which includes number-independent interpersonal communications services. From that date on, these services will, therefore, be covered by the ePrivacy Directive (Directive 2002/58/EC), which relies on the definition of the EECC. This change concerns communications services like webmail messaging services and internet telephony.

Certain providers of number-independent interpersonal communications services are already using specific technologies to detect child sexual abuse on their services and report it to law enforcement authorities and to organisations acting in the public interest against child sexual abuse, and/or to remove child sexual abuse material.

The providers of electronic communications services must comply with the ePrivacy Directive’s obligation to respect the confidentiality of communications and with the conditions for processing communications data. The current practices of some number-independent interpersonal communications services to detect child sexual abuse online could interfere with certain provisions of the ePrivacy Directive. The ePrivacy Directive does not contain an explicit legal basis for voluntary processing of content or traffic data for the purpose of detecting child sexual abuse online. Therefore, for the services falling within scope of the ePrivacy Directive, providers will be able to continue to apply such measures only if Member States adopt legislative measures justified on the grounds laid down in Article 15 of that Directive and meeting the requirements of that provision. In the absence of such national legislative measures and pending the adoption of the long-term legislation announced in the Commission Strategy of 24 July 2020, providers of number-independent interpersonal communications services would lack a legal basis for continuing to detect child sexual abuse on their services.

The Commission considers that it is essential to take immediate action. The present proposal therefore presents a narrow and targeted legislative interim solution with the sole objective of creating a temporary and strictly limited derogation from the applicability of Articles 5(1) and 6 of the ePrivacy Directive, which protect the confidentiality of communications and traffic data.