2 Visions Clash Over How to Fight Online Child Abuse in Europe

Encrypted messaging services have quickly condemned the Commission’s proposal. Julia Weiss, a spokeswoman for the Swiss messaging app Threema, says the company was unwilling to undermine the privacy of its users in any way. “Building a surveillance system to proactively scan all private content was a terrible idea when Apple proposed it, and now it’s a terrible idea.” added Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, in a post on Twitter. In August 2021, Apple announced a proposal to scan photos of its users for child sexual abuse material, but after intense criticism, it indefinitely delayed those plans a month later.

But European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has been stubborn in her pursuit of the law. “I am willing to listen to criticism from companies, because detecting child sexual abuse material and protecting children may not be profitable, but it is necessary,” he told a news conference on Wednesday. The tools used to carry out any scan should be the least intrusive technology for privacy and should be chosen in consultation with data protection authorities, he added.

Johansson’s proposal does not define what kind of technology these companies should use to scan messages. The reason for this, says the commissioner, is so that the legislation does not become obsolete as new solutions in favor of privacy are invented. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. “I am increasingly confident that if the environment is right and if there is a legal regulatory framework that protects children and adolescents, then companies and solutions can be created and generated that can eliminate this crisis,” said Paul Zeitz, Executive Coordinator. . of Brave Movement, a group representing survivors of child sexual violence.

But privacy groups say this approach means basing legislation on impossible technology. “It doesn’t matter how many times Commissioner Johansson says in public that you can scan encrypted messages securely and with full respect for privacy,” says Jakubowska. “That’s not true.”

The regulation still needs the approval of the European Parliament and EU member states, which could take years. But critics, including German Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Ulrich Kelber, do committed stop the current proposal. “Because some points will lead to solutions that profoundly interfere with fundamental rights, regulation should in no way last in this way,” he said on Thursday.

However, Johansson remains unperturbed. In an interview with WIRED, he describes the fight against child sexual abuse as a very personal cause. “As a mother, I feel compelled to protect my children,” she says. “As an adult, I am obliged to protect all children. And as a politician, when I have the power to propose legislation to protect children, I think I am morally obliged to propose such legislation. “

Other members of the European Parliament have accused Johansson of adding emotional intensity to the debate which has made it difficult to critique the details of the law without making it clear that they do not care about children who are being abused.

However, the commissioner may claim supporters among child sexual abuse survivors, who say they are impressed by her strong rhetoric and simple language on topics that still feel taboo.

“It feels great when you’re a survivor to have a political leader, who is very powerful, to talk about shame, to talk about trauma, to talk about the impact of child sexual abuse,” says Mié Kohiyama, a French survivor of sexuality. infantile. abuse that is also part of Brave Movement, which was created earlier this year. “It’s very important to us.”

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