Simplistic draft EP “Written Declaration” on online child abuse
Efforts led by British Conservative Parliamentarian Emma McClarkin are under way to solve the problem of online child abuse, in a manner that would have been more appropriate in 2005.
She has circulated a draft “Written Declaration” to her colleagues. Such a “Written Declaration” becomes a European Parliament Resolution if it attracts the signatures of half of all Members of the European Parliament.
The text she is proposing (not yet published) starts by pointing out that child abuse is an abhorrent crime, before pointing oddly to the “universal belief” that it is a criminal act to traffic such content. It then states a second truism, that it is an international crime that needs international cooperation.
Oddly, the draft then says that “there is often a commercial dimension to the distribution of child sexual abuse content and as such the distribution of this content could be profitable for organised crime structures”. This is strange because the United Kingdom's Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre prepared a report in 2010 for the European Financial Coalition which found that the web-based commercial exploitation of the images in question was dropping and that the profits are “actually quite low.” Surely, when designing statements about a crime as serious as online child abuse, a minimum level of research is the least one could expect, especially when, as the draft text points out, “behind every image or video of child sexual abuse there is a real victim”.
The draft Declaration calls on the Commission to develop its focus on international cooperation with developing countries “to deal with” the problem of online child sexual abuse content, pointing out that “the most effective way” of dealing with such content is to remove it at source. There is, as the text points out, “a real victim” behind all such content. It is exactly because there is a real victim behind each image that the most effective way of dealing with it is not simply to delete it. It is to investigate the crime, prosecute offenders and identify and rescue victims. It seems nothing short of reckless to suggest, even if due to bad drafting rather than bad intent, any other approach.
The text then calls on “the Commission and the Member States to support and promote the creation of child sexual abuse reporting mechanisms that meet acceptable standards with respect to transparency and freedom of expression in third countries”. The problem here is that McClarkin is a so-called “Champion of the Internet Watch Foundation” - the UK hotline which makes quasi-judicial rulings on what material “may be” illegal, leading to content being deleted and blocked by United Kingdom Internet providers (which led, for example, to Yahoo's Flickr photo sharing site being unavailable via several UK ISPs, as well as the infamous blocking of Wikipedia). It is difficult to tell if this is the “transparency and freedom of expression” that she wants to export to third countries.
The draft circulated in the European Parliament reads as follows:
Written declaration on the international dimension of the fight against online child sexual abuse content
The European Parliament, – having regard to Rule 123 of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas the nature of child sexual abuse content must be recognised as one of the most abhorrent forms of content available online and due to the universal belief that it is a criminal act to produce, distribute, disseminate, import, export, offer, sell or possess this content; B. whereas the cross-border nature of most cases relating to online child sexual abuse images and videos on the internet shows a need for further international cooperation; C. whereas there is often a commercial dimension to the distribution of child sexual abuse content and as such the distribution of this content could be profitable for organised crime structures; D. whereas behind every image or video of child sexual abuse there is a real victim;
1. Calls on the Commission to include developing as well as developed countries in its focus when establishing international cooperation to deal with the problem of online child sexual abuse content;
2. Points out that the most effective way to deal with child sexual abuse content is to remove the content at source;
3. Stresses therefore the importance of adequate reporting and take-down mechanisms for child sexual abuse content in every country;
4. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support and promote the creation of child sexual abuse reporting mechanisms that meet acceptable standards with respect to transparency and freedom of expression in third countries;
5. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Council, the Commission, the Member States, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
Politicians “pledge” support to child sexual abuse Hotline (28.11.2012)
Wikipedia ban lifted by Internet Watch Foundation (10.12.2008)
Wikipedia blocking in UK
(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)