Tougher Measures Needed to Fight European Child Porn, Report Says

Nick Roberts
BELGIUM — Blocking websites may not be enough to combat child pornography in Europe because of the diverse sensitivities and traditions of the European Union’s member states.

According to a recent report, the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee expressed concern over the European Union’s progress on sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography.

In a discussion with Belgian justice minister Stefaan De Clerck, the Committee said that removing websites was merely a cosmetic exercise and that the emphasis should be put on prevention.

Recent studies, according to the report, indicate that between 10 and 20 percent of children in Europe are sexually assaulted during childhood.

The aims of the proposed directive are to prevent anyone convicted of child abuse offenses in one country from getting a job with children in another member state, combating sex tourism and blocking access to Internet sites.

But German Parliament member Alexander Alvaro said that "blocking does not seem to be very efficient" and also pointed out that asking the U.S. or Russia to remove websites could be problematic.

In October, two digital rights organizations — EDRI and the European ISP Association (EuroISPA) — also expressed concern and said that the European Commission's plan to take down child porn sites was nothing more than a threat it described as "mission creep."

The report said the European’s Commission's informal recommendation is to remove websites featuring child pornography, terrorism and racism.

EDRI and EuroISPA said public authorities should take responsibility for the enforcement process and to then investigate and prosecute the individuals behind the sites that are the subject of take down notices.

Not holding public authorities accountable for taking down child porn sites "could seriously compromise the fight against illegal content through the legitimate, established means of law enforcement,” the watchdogs said.

A draft report on the proposed directive will be presented by Italian member of Parliament Roberta Angelilli in January with a committee vote expected by February.

The measure will also be a priority item at the December meeting of the European Council.

Related: