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Over 540,000 EU Citizens Sign Petition in favor of the proposed legislation to protect children

Updated: Mar 26

PRESS RELEASE 06.12.2023

Child Protection Advocates Submit Petition to EU Institutions at Event in the European Parliament Hosted by MEPs Hilde Vautmans and Catharina Rinzema and attended by European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, and the Spanish Minister of Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska.

BRUSSELS, 6th December 2023

Today marks a major call on the European Union to enact comprehensive protections for children from sexual abuse. In 2022, there were 32 million reports of suspected online child sexual exploitation, more than 1.5 million in the EU, and alarmingly, Europe has become the central hub for the distribution and trade of images depicting abuse. This must change, and the proposed European Union legislation has the power to do so.

Over Half a Million Citizens Call for Strong Legislation

To demonstrate the European Union public’s support for increased child protection against sexual abuse, survivors from all EU countries and 40 partner child rights organizations led by the Justice Initiative, a program of the Guido Fluri Foundation, launched this Europe-wide petition. Over the last six months, the organizations succeeded in collecting signatures from every EU member county–from Spain to Germany, Greece to Romania, Finland to Sweden, and more.

With over 540,000 signatures, the petition shows that most citizens urgently want increased support to survivors and increased protection for children against child sexual abuse, notably online. This is in line with the results of recent EU-wide surveys such as the Eurobarometer, and the one conducted by ECPAT-NSPCC, which reached similar results of an overwhelming majority of citizens supporting legislation to prevent, detect and report child sexual abuse online.

Hilde Vaultmans, Member of the European Parliament and Co-Chair of the Child Rights Intergroup, asserts, “Hundreds of thousands of people, including survivors and child protection groups, have signed the petition. As representatives of the people, we have understood this signal. We have a mandate to protect the next generation.”

Survivors and child protection groups call for children’s rights to be respected

Survivors, child protection organizations, and citizens from all over Europe demand that the European Union take a world-leading stance by adopting the proposal to better prevent and combat child sexual abuse. The proposed legislation would require companies to take measures to prevent harm against children on their platforms and where necessary effectively detect, report, and remove content depicting child sexual abuse.

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, emphasized, “This is a decisive moment. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are deciding on the final text of the proposal. I urge you to listen to the silent majority, to listen to the survivors and support my proposal, to protect child from the worst crime imaginable.”

Survivors and child protection groups are concerned about a recent compromise reached by the European Parliament arguing that it could worsen the already dire situation for children’s safety online. Survivors of sexual abuse say, “Enough is enough.”

The legislation must prioritize children’s best interests while seeking a balance with privacy, but putting user privacy above all other fundamental rights, including child protection, betrays the values of the EU. As Guido Fluri, President of the Justice Initiative, stated, “The values on which Europe is founded include respect for human dignity, freedom, and equality; the rule of law; and respect for human rights. That’s why we ask: Do these values not apply on the internet, where children’s rights are violated brutally every day?”

Council of the EU: Spanish Presidency Seeks Compromise that Protects Children

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU joins the demand for strong protection. Spanish Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska stands firm in seeking a viable compromise: “We are a bit closer to achieving this objective, with a legislative text currently under discussion, on which we are putting all our efforts. The Spanish Presidency has proposed alternative wordings which, without renouncing the ultimate objectives pursued by the proposed Regulation, address the various concerns raised by Member States in relation to the possible impact on rights such as the privacy of communications.”

Child sexual abuse online is a global problem that transcends borders, cultures, and social strata. Behind every cold and heartbreaking statistic, we find stories of child survivors who have suffered physical, emotional, and psychological harm at the hands of predators who take advantage of the ease with which they can access their victims through the internet.

Finnish Child Protection Experts Favor the Law as originally proposed

"This is a legislation that can truly protect children online. The online community is constantly growing due to technological development, and we don't know what the future will bring. We need sustainable legislation, and this regulation would help protect children now, but also in the future”, says Scharliina Eräpuro, a Finnish survivor.

Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry, a Finnish NGO working with a holistic, research-based method to end all forms of sexual violence against children, recently published preliminary findings from new research on offenders who use child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The findings suggest an alarming prevalence of CSAM on the surface web, including on social media platforms, instant messengers, and pornography platforms. The organization’s research shows that perpetrators viewing CSAM are more likely to seek direct contact with a child afterward. 70% have attempted to do so via a social media or messaging app.

“Our scientific research clearly shows that the use of CSAM leads to an increased risk of committing other crimes of sexual violence against children. We must act now with robust legislative changes to stop the spread of CSAM online and keep our children safe,” states Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director and Senior Specialist of Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry. Matilda Sandvik, Head of Advocacy at Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry, adds: “We must place responsibility on the very companies offering services through which children are falling victim to these horrific crimes daily. We must regulate online environments, or we will continue to fail children worldwide.”

For more information, contact:

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen

Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist

+358 40 747 8829

Matilda Sandvik

Head of Advocacy

+358 40 081 8002


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