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Politicians raise alarm over EU law to curb child sexual abuse online

IANS | June 18, 2024 03:52 PM

BRUSSELS: Thirty-six lawmakers from across the European Union have called on member states to vote against plans by the bloc's executive to require tech companies to monitor their platforms for child sexual abuse content, citing data security concerns.

In an open letter made available to dpa, the politicians said they were convinced the proposed measures are incompatible with EU basic rights.

The European Commission in 2022 presented the proposed Regulation to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse, designed to curb the spread of material showing the sexual abuse of children.

The law would make it compulsory for social media platforms to scan private encrypted chats on social media platforms for certain identifiers that might flag child grooming or the sharing of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and to report any suspicious activity. Under current law, this monitoring of online activity is voluntary.

Critics have slammed the proposed measure as "chat control." They see it as an attempt to scan all online communication, including encrypted messages, raising fears of mass surveillance.

EU member states representatives are expected to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

The open letter calling on members to vote against the proposal was signed by lawmakers from national parliaments as well as the European Parliament, including from Germany and Austria.

In the letter, the lawmakers call for the protection of the right to anonymous and pseudonymous use of the internet as well as for a strengthening of end-to-end encryption.

In order to effectively combat child sexual abuse, more resources and targeted coordination among European law enforcement authorities are needed, they say.

"Instead of effectively protecting children from sexualised violence online, the compromise draft continues to massively encroach on the protection of everyone's digital privacy, " co-initiator Tobias Bacherle, a lawmaker for the German Green Party, told dpa.

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