European Federation of Journalists

Open letter calling on the EU Commission to withdraw the Child Abuse Regulation

Picture credit: Canva

Today, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined 72 other civil society organisations and professional bodies in writing to the European Commission with a strong demand: withdraw the legislation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse (CSA) regulation, and replace it with an approach that upholds fundamental rights. We caution EU politicians and governments that when you fundamentally undermine how the internet works, you make it less safe for everyone.

The proposal focuses specifically on detecting, reporting and removing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) online and does not tackle broader dimensions of the grave issue of child abuse and exploitation. The proposed rules will apply to private message services (like WhatsApp and Signal), web-based emails, social media platforms, app stores, image hosting providers and more. Under the proposal, all of these services will be liable for obligations to scan, filter and/or block content – including encrypted messages.

The signatories of this letter are made up of a broad range of groups working across human rights – including the digital rights of adults and young people; the protection of journalists and media freedom; lawyers; whistle-blowers; gender justice; democracy and peace; workers; and more. We share a commitment to protecting online privacy, security and freedom of expression for everyone (including children) globally. These rights allow us to do our jobs, raise our voices and hold power to account without arbitrary intrusion, persecution or repression. These rights are also important for providing confidential support to survivors, for developing our autonomy and sense of self, and for accessing and enjoying almost all our other human and civil rights.

Regrettably, we warn that the European Commission’s proposed CSA Regulation is likely to do far more harm than good. In the important fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation, we support measures that are targeted, effective and proportionate. Many of us have previously spoken out about how to ensure that measures to keep children safe online are done according to existing human rights, the rule of law, and due process frameworks. In our work, we have direct experience of how such rules and principles are essential to uphold democracy, access to justice and the presumption of innocence.

Unfortunately, we do not believe that such measures are to be found in the proposed legislation. In fact, the proposal relies on technologies that are not able to do what the Regulation claims, and instead will attack encrypted communications, open internet spaces and online anonymity. That’s why we want the Commission to do better to tackle this critically-important issue in a way that respects privacy, security and free expression.

The open letter is currently available in English, German and Romanian, and remains open for additional signatories post-publication.