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Controversial CSAM proposal: do what’s needed now

The unpredictability of the European legislative process is sometimes tiresome. And perhaps more importantly, it gets in the way of solving real problems, such as risks to the safety of children and young people.

The voting that never happened

European policymakers have been negotiating for years over a bill that would allow the government to force a platform to monitor all messages from all users, the so-called CSAM Regulation. Last week should have been a defining moment: officials from member state governments ('the Council') would vote, behind closed doors, on the proposal. The prediction of the outcome changed every hour. And the tension was heightened by shifting the timing of the vote.

Vulnerable children and adolescents gain nothing from policymakers who keep bickering over an impossible compromise

But no vote was ever taken in the end. The President of the Council, Belgium, pulled the item from the agenda last minute. The reason is clear. The Council President appeared uncertain of sufficient support and decided not to take a risk. Rather pulling it from the agenda, than make it clear that there was still (too) much resistance to the controversial proposal.

Impossible to advance

And with that we are back to square one. Some member states think the proposal does not go far enough, others think it goes much too far. It is now up to the next Council President, Hungary, to unblock the stalled negotiations. This is actually impossible because the proposal is extremely controversial. The proposed measures will not be effective; they introduce untargeted surveillance and undermine the confidentiality of communications. This is untenable. The Belgians also never got beyond 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic'.

Politicians, go back to the drawing board and come up with proven effective and legally tenable measures

Controversy is not effective

And again, what was the original purpose of the proposal? You would almost forget with all this political pandering. Exactly: to protect children and adolescents from sexual abuse on the internet. That's a noble goal. It is important that we take this shocking problem seriously. Everyone agrees on that. The main question is: how?

And let's face it: vulnerable children and adolescents have no use for policymakers who keep bickering over an impossible compromise in a gridlock over a highly controversial bill. To really help them: drop this ridiculous bill, go back to the drawing board and come up with a proposal for proven effective and legally tenable measures without undermining the safety of every internet user.

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