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Deutsch: Ein sicheres Internet für Kinder – erste Fortschritte
The European Commission hosted a meeting of the “CEO Coalition” on Friday of last week. This is a project where Commissioner Kroes invited industry to produce measures to make the Internet a safer place for children. The dangers of such an approach are clear – industry will be tempted to choose the easiest and most public relations-friendly measures rather than evidence-based measures that will make a positive difference and, potentially, to favour “solutions” which give them a competitive advantage. On the other hand, the Commission is faced with the temptation to take whatever is on offer from industry, particularly due to the very short time-frame (end of 2012) that it gave industry to come up with proposals.
There appears, however, to be a new awareness in the Commission that child protection must be taken more seriously, based on credible research. One indication of this is the distribution on Friday of the latest round of the EUKidsonline research project. This project provides a comprehensive overview of the experience of European children in the online environment, providing an evidence base for future decision-making. To date, however, the EU institutions have referred this work disappointingly infrequently, although this may change as the research becomes better known.
The discussions on Friday, despite the less than promising framework for the project, displayed some of the first significant evolution in thinking of this subject for several years. The quality and progress of the work of the CEO Coalition is, however, very different depending on the subject being discussed and which companies are taking the lead. There are four working groups, WG 1 on “reporting tools”, WG 2 on “age-appropriate privacy settings”, WG 3 on “notice and takedown” and WG 4 on "parental controls".
The most disappointing work is being done in working groups 1 and 2. Working Group 1 on "reporting tools" appears to believe that any reporting button of any description will be a good thing. Many of the proposals are measures that have already been tried, with varying degrees of success and failure. Instead of learning from past mistakes and building on past achievements, the working group appears to prefer to start from scratch. Despite the recent revelations on the Gawker website and the Daily Telegraph, no particular attention is being devoted to the treatment of reports that are filed through reporting buttons.
Working group 2 on “age-appropriate privacy settings”, led by Facebook, offers the least progress. The task at hand appears to be “spin” existing policies and laws that should be applicable for both children and adults as a special service for children. This approach is the one that was followed in the already existing “The Safer Social Networking Principles for EU”. The presentation made on Friday, for example, suggested that “an application or service that is directed at children or adolescents should ensure that the collection, access and use of personal information is appropriate in all given circumstances and compatible with national law.”
In Working Group 3 on "notice and takedown", there are worrying discussions on the roll-out of upload filters. Hardly coincidentally, Microsoft both leads the Notice and Takedown working group and developed the PhotoDNA software that is used by, for example, Facebook UK, to check filter images being uploaded to its service against a blacklist of known child abuse material. No discussion of abuse of the software, unintended consequences or positives and negatives that can be drawn from experience with the use of the software took place. On the other hand, however, there was an awareness among participants that the focus on industry actions such as notice and takedown, leaves much of the problem unaddressed and even neglected. There has been far too much attention placed on removing the symptoms of the crime, often outside the rule of law, and too little on the important problems that intermediaries cannot solve – victim identification, investigation, prosecution etc. This was the first meeting that we are aware of when this realisation was expressed by organisations other than EDRi.
Working group 4 on "parental controls", which is led by Nokia, showed an impressive amount of expertise and serious reflection on how to create a real value added for child protection online. The paper presented by Nokia stressed the importance of continual research in order to ensure that the measures being implemented are actually achieving their intended goals, that parental controls should be at the edge of the network rather than in the network itself and that measures which undermine the privacy of the child should not be supported by any such software.
The biggest danger now is that the rapidly approaching deadline of the end of 2012 will lead to proposals being made and approved without due care for unintended consequences for child protection, for fundamental rights, for online competition and for the open Internet.
EU Kids online project
Inside Facebook’s Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, Where ‘Camel
Toes’ are More Offensive Than ‘Crushed Heads’ (16.02.2012)
The dark side of Facebook (2.03.2012)
Commissioner Kroes speech on “delivering a better Internet for kids”
(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)