By EDRi

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)
http://www.iwf.org.uk/about-iwf/news/post/337-politicians-pledge-support-to-child-sexual-abuse-hotline

Wikipedia ban lifted by Internet Watch Foundation (10.12.2008)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/3700396/Wikipedia-ban-lifted-by-Internet-Watch-Foundation.html

Wikipedia blocking in UK
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_Wikipedia

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)