On February 11, 2021, the European Commission launched a public consultation on its initiative to fight child sexual abuse online (the “Initiative”), which aims to impose obligations on online service providers to detect child sexual abuse online and to report it to public authorities. The consultation is part of the data collection activities announced in the Initiative’s inception impact assessment issued in December last year. The consultation runs until April 15, 2021, and the Commission intends to propose the necessary legislation by the end of the second quarter of 2021.

The Initiative, which the Commission first outlined in its EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse in July 2020, encompasses legislation to introduce detection and reporting responsibilities on relevant online service providers and the creation of a “European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse” to coordinate and avoid duplication of Member States’ efforts.

Through the consultation, the Commission seeks to gather evidence from citizens and stakeholders to inform the preparation of the legislation and the proposed European centre.  The consultation asks respondents to weigh in on, in particular:

  • The types of child sexual abuse online and related activities that are most concerning and should be tackled in priority;
  • The key outcomes that the new legislation should aim to achieve;
  • The types of online service providers (“OSPs”) that should be subject to obligations under the legislation, and whether it should also apply to OSPs located outside the EU that offer services within the EU;
  • The actions that OSPs should carry out, and the safeguards that should be imposed on those actions;
  • The nature of transparency and accountability requirements under the legislation;
  • The need for, challenges faced by, and desired functions of the potential European centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse; and
  • The nature of law enforcement action and sanctions required in the fight against child sexual abuse in the EU.

For more information on the Commission’s efforts to combat child sexual abuse online, feel free to read our previous blog post here.  We will continue monitoring developments in this field.