EU urged to ‘close legal gap’ to protect kids from online abuse

UN human rights experts have called on the European Union (EU) to “close the legal gap” to protect children from online sexual abuse.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children, said: “The fact that there currently exists no legislation within the EU that allows for the technology companies to detect and report child sexual abuse online is very concerning to me.”

If no agreement is reached on temporary legislation to allow for the continued use of technological tools to tackle such abuse, “many children will continue to be abused with impunity with no hope in sight for assistance”, Xinhua news agency quoted Singhateh as saying in the statement.

Joseph Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, urged the EU member states to “review their legal frameworks to enable voluntary action by companies to lawfully and proportionately detect online child sexual abuse”.

The call for action came in the wake of a recent law enforcement survey conducted by tech company NetClean, which confirmed that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a global increase in online child sexual abuse crime, the statement said.

Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has also warned of “increased activity relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation”.

The European Commission plans to introduce legislation addressing child sexual abuse online this year.