Is this the most criticised draft EU law of all time?

An unprecedentedly broad range of stakeholders have raised concerns that despite its important aims, the measures proposed in the draft EU Child Sexual Abuse Regulation are fundamentally incompatible with human rights.

By EDRi · August 29, 2023

The proposed EU ‘Regulation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse‘ (2022) (CSA Regulation, or CSAR) has raised concerns that it is incompatible with EU fundamental rights and case law – perhaps more so than any other EU law in recent memory.

Whilst all stakeholders agree on the importance of the aim to protect children, all formal legal and technical assessments have concluded that the proposed measures could amount to disproportionate violations of everyone’s privacy, personal data and free expression online, and rely on technically infeasible or dangerous measures.

Read on to see how a wide range of stakeholders, including child protection experts, survivors of CSA, police, national governments, UN officials, companiesNGOs and others have warned that the proposed measures are misguided and could do more harm than good.

"[The CSA Regulation] could become the basis for de facto generalised and indiscriminate scanning of the content of virtually all types of electronic communications of all users in the EU/EEA"

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and Supervisor (EDPS)

EU institutions and case law

The Court of Justice of the EU enforces strong protections for privacy, data protection, free expression, non-discrimination and other fundamental rights both online and off, for children and adults alike, on the basis of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The serious and widespread threat posed by the draft CSAR to fundamental rights is reflected in all formal legal analyses from EU institutions about the proposal.

Young people

International child rights law requires that children’s views are incorporated into laws which relate to their rights and safety, in order to respect their autonomy.

  • According to a large representative survey, 80% of children in the EU say that they would not feel comfortable and safe being politically active or exploring their sexuality if authorities were able to monitor their digital communications on the basis of finding child abuse material:
  • The same survey shows that around two-thirds of young people in the EU rely on encrypted message services for communication, and around the same number disagree or totally disagree with the premise that providers should be allowed to scan their private chats. Instead, improving media literacy and reporting mechanisms are overwhelmingly favoured by the children surveyed.
  • Young activists warn of being suppressed by the CSAR:

Child sexual abuse survivors

Child rights & child protection experts

Police and prosecutors

Technology & data protection experts

Independent legal analyses

National governments and parliaments

The European Parliament


Privacy-tech companies and associations

The United Nations

Professional secrecy associations (journalists, lawyers, etc.)

Civil society

2023 controversy

In September 2023, an investigation by journalists published in seven media outlets across Europe raised allegations of a conflict of interest from Commissioner Johansson and DG HOME staff. These allegations include facilitating access to a company with commercial interests in the file, Thorn, and have led to questions about the legitimacy and ethics of the Commission’s process in the preparation of the CSA Regulation:

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee wrote to the Commissioner to request an explanation, and subsequently received a response from Thorn and from Commissioner Johansson:


Read more about the CSAR:

Read our short guide about the key problems with the CSAR proposal (age verification, threat to encryption, mass surveillance).

Some of the companies or individuals developing and/or selling scanning tech have made dubious claims about the accuracy and safety of their tech. Read our assessment and debunking of some of the most pervasive false claims!

EDRi’s document pool rounds up key resources and developments about the file, especially as they relate to the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Council.

Something missing?

Is there an important critique or concern missing from this page? Perhaps your NGO, group or association has published a statement? Let us know: