Child protection on the Internet

  

The protection of children online has become an EU priority as lawmakers wake up to the risks of social networking sites and ramp up the fight against child pornography.

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Overview

In the past decade, the European Union has made progress on coming up with ways to protect children from harm on the Internet.

Since the ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in November 2009, legislators have enjoyed greater power to write laws on criminal enforcement and sanctions, which has fed into policymaking to combat child pornography on the Internet in particular.

EU Justice Commissioner Cecilia Malmström issued a draft proposal in April 2010 which would block access to sites containing child pornography, an idea the German government has said it will oppose (see 'Issues').

The European Commission has launched several awareness-raising campaigns since 1999, the most recent initiative being EU Commissioner Viviane Reding's 'Think Before You Post' event in February 2010.

At the 2009 Safer Internet Day, 18 web firms signed the EU's Safer Social Networking Principles agreement, brokered by the European Commission to improve online safety for under-18s. Two more companies joined the agreement later that year.

The agreement contains a number of measures that web firms have pledged to take, including "providing an easy to use 'report abuse button' [which will] allow users to report inappropriate contact from or conduct by another user" and "make sure that full online profile and contact lists of website users who are registered as under-18s are set to 'private' by default".

In addition, EU Safer Internet Centres have been set up in each member state to develop awareness-raising material for children, parents and teachers and gather evidence of illegal content.

Most recently, EU justice ministers asked the European Commission to examine whether the bloc should pool its Internet investigative powers into one single cybersecurity agency (EurActiv 28/04/10).

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