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European Commission must have greater ambition in combating sexual violence

Last year, the European Commission made a far-reaching proposal to protect children against sexual violence. But a study by Delft University shows that there is a lot wrong with the substantiation of the proposal.

Alternative facts

Last year, the European Commission made a far-reaching proposalEuropean Commission wants to eliminate online confidentiality to protect children against sexual violence. This is a shocking problem precisely because children and young people are so incredibly vulnerable. The university investigated a number of statements by the European Commission that it made in support of its proposal. The study shows that three of the six arguments are incorrect (or "fake news" or "alternative facts" or whatever you want to call it). One of the other statements is not sufficiently substantiated. The remaining two are true, or at least plausible. That is disconcertingly poor support for a proposal that might potentially break down the confidentiality of communication on the Internet.

Time-traveling is (still) impossible

The problem of sexual abuse of children is so serious that it requires proven effective and legally sustainable measures even more that other issues might. After all, we can only use our energy once. For example, if we use police capacity on something that is not at the heart of the problem, then that capacity is wastedSex crimes unit already overwhelmed, and EU lawmakers will only make it worse. There is no way to go back in time and redirect that capacity if it turns out that we misunderstood the problem. This makes it essential to base legislative interventions on facts. It is of course possible that we lack factual information, but then that should also be fully understood. Because proposing measures based on a misrepresentation of facts is downright harmful.

There is no way to go back in time and this makes it essential to base laws on facts.

Distortion of facts

Moreover, the damage will only increase if those measures seriously infringe our fundamental rights. After all, that that is what the European Commission wants to do by breaking down end-to-end encryption. One of the claims of the European Commission makes is that material with sexual abuse of children is being shared less on websites, and increasingly in chats. These chats are encrypted in such a way that no one but the sender and recipient can read the messages (end-to-end). That is why the legislator wants to force platforms to look over the shoulders of their users. However, the very premise that more material is shared via chats is insufficiently substantiated, according to the researchers. Such harsh surveillance measures cannot truly be justified anyway, but it is even worse if it happens based on distorted facts.

Fact-based interventions

We believe the fight against child sexual abuse is important just as much as everyone else. But let’s please focus on proven effective measures that are legally sustainable. Measures that are mainly aimed at preventing the abuse, at tracing the perpetrators and appropriate help for victims. Let’s not put a disproportionate effort into limiting the spread of material of past abuse. Let's focus on measures that leave everyone's fundamental rights intact. And let's base all those interventions on facts. That may be ambitious, but the nature of the problem demands nothing less.

This translation was provided for by Celeste Vervoort.

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