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'Eyes of the world very much on Europe' as IWF welcomes progress on child safety measures in Brussels

“We cannot allow Europe to be a safe haven for these criminals who would exploit the worst abuse of vulnerable, innocent children. We are pleased to see some action is being taken"

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, has welcomed moves in Brussels that ensure companies can continue to detect online child sexual abuse material, but says more still needs to be done.

On 7 December, the European Parliament's LIBE Committee approved a proposal for a temporary exemption to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

This temporary derogation means web-based communication services will be able to continue voluntary detection of child sexual abuse online, using tools such as PhotoDNA and other services supplied by the Internet Watch Foundation.

The IWF is part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, which, along with charities SWGfL and Childnet, works to deliver critical advice, resources, and interventions to help keep everyone, especially children and young people, safe online.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF and UKSIC Director, said: “We welcome that the Parliament has made some progress – this temporary derogation is an important step in keeping children safe and protecting them from harm online.

“Companies must use all the tools and services at their disposal to make their online platforms safe for all users, and the IWF provides some of the best safeguards available. It is vitally important that the legislative environment supports them in doing all that they can. We eagerly await the final details of the text that the LIBE Committee agreed yesterday, but at face value, yesterday appears to be a great day for the protection of children online.

“The eyes of the world are very much on Europe at the moment. Europe remains the global hotspot for the hosting of this abhorrent imagery. In 2019, nine out of ten of the webpages we removed were hosted in Europe.

"As the European Commission has recently published its consultation on the impact assessment for a new strategy to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation, it is vitally important that the hosting of this imagery in the EU is not tolerated in the future. This is not the time to relax or to stop striving for a safer internet. It is a pivotal time.

“Instead of getting better, the situation appears to have been getting worse, and more and more of the material our analysts find and remove can be traced back to servers in Europe.

“We cannot allow Europe to be a safe haven for these criminals who would exploit the worst abuse of vulnerable, innocent children. We are pleased to see some action is being taken.

“This has to be the start, though, and is far from the end.”

Please remember, images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously at https://report.iwf.org.uk/en

 The public is given this advice when making a report:

  • Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
  • Do provide the exact URL where child sexual abuse images are located.
  • Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on the IWF’s website.
  • Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare,
  • Do report only once for each web address – or URL. Repeat reporting of the same URL isn’t needed and wastes analysts’ time.
  • Do report non-photographic visual depictions of the sexual abuse of children, such as computer-generated images. Anything of this nature, which is also hosted in the UK, the IWF can get removed.