The Safe Digital Futures: Data for Change event on 17 November 2022 at the European Union Parliament in Brussels hosted a much-needed dialogue on the availability and quality of data related to online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA), in Europe and globally. Co-organised by the European Parliament, End Violence’s Safe Online Initiative and WeProtect Global Alliance, it provided a platform for key actors and experts from relevant sectors, including government and tech industry, to discuss the current data ecosystem and identify gaps, solutions and opportunities for collaborative efforts, with a particular focus on the EU context and the upcoming online CSEA legislation.
Through progressive legislation, improved regulation of digital spaces and robust strategy to fight child sexual abuse, the European Union’s is making crucial progress to protect children from online harm. As this progress accelerates, the need for reliable data and evidence of what works on a regional and global scale is more urgent than ever.
The lack of systematic data collection and infrastructure for analysis of online risks and harms for children remains a critical barrier to securing a safe internet for children. These gaps impact the accurate identification of problems and needs, and the effective measurement of progress. They undermine investments and constrain advocacy, resulting in limited political attention and financial resources allocated to the issue.
Key high-level representatives joined the conversation on what can be done to generate data for safer digital futures – including David Lega, Member of the European Parliament and the Co-Chair, Intergroup on Children's Rights; Charlotte Caubel, State Secretary for Children, France; Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport, World Economic Forum and Jacqueline Beauchere, Global Head of Platform Safety, Snapchat.
The speakers stressed the need for better and more reliable data, and collaboration, especially to develop informed legislation. They also highlighted the need for sustained political support to ensure data is used effectively.
“We need data – I need that help to convince my colleagues and my constituency that the threat [of violence] is real and what happens in the online world leaves real scars in the offline world. That’s why we need to act now…a global threat needs global action,” said MEP David Lega.
“Data, figures, statistics can be very helpful for the legislator to guide and make sure they put up pieces of legislation that are future-proof and can set the blueprint for the future,” said Emilio Puccio, Secretary General of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights, European Parliament. “The Safe Online Initiative at End Violence is a great example of how we need to stress the importance of quality data and evidence.”
The Safe Online initiative at End Violence is working to provide actionable data to tackle online violence and make the internet safe for children through significant investments and global advocacy. Its pioneering work on evidence generation, including the large-scale, multi-country Disrupting Harm (DH) project aims to understand the scope and nature of online child sexual exploitation and abuse and how existing national child protection systems are responding, and the partnership with Tech Coalition is investing in knowledge to help design products and services that keep children safe online.
“Disrupting Harm research can help companies to be data-informed,” said Jacqueline Beauchere, Global Head of Platform Safety, Snapchat at the Safe Digital Futures event. “Insights from Disrupting Harm can help inform platforms on the nature and extent of the problem (of CSEA) in specific regions and geographies and how platforms can develop tools and features and functionalities to disrupt the online CSEA trends and patterns.”
The event was preceded by a day-long workshop on 16 November which invited key actors and experts from relevant sectors, including the tech industry. They discussed the data landscape on CSEA, the preparedness levels of national systems and industry platforms to prevent and disrupt abuse and high-level data generation efforts that can strengthen systems.
The European Commission's proposed legislation to tackle the growing spread of child sexual exploitation and abuse online aims to steer the technology platforms to detect, report, and remove CSAM. This will have a huge impact on protecting children, preserving children’s privacy, and reducing the devastating harm this content has on survivors of child sexual abuse. 14 organisations, including the End Violence’ Safe Online initiative have launched a global advocacy campaign to support the European Commission’s proposal. Read more about the #ChildSafetyOnlineNow campaign.
Watch the Safe Digital Futures Event Aftermovie, and explore expert interviews with:
David Lega, Member of the European Parliament and the Co-Chair, Intergroup on Children's Rights;
Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport, World Economic Forum
Emilio Puccio, Secretary General of the Intergroup on Children’s Rights, European Parliament.
Iain Drennan, Executive Director, WeProtect Global Alliance