Resources: Cybercrime and the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse
Fostering children’s trust and confidence in the Internet coupled with the protection of their dignity, security and privacy is a priority for the Council of Europe. The Internet is a space of freedom to express and communicate, to search for information and to learn, to work and to play. Access to the Internet thus offers great potential for children to exercise and enjoy their rights and values through the Internet.
At the same time, threats such as cybercrime and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children through information and communication technologies pose particular challenges. The Council of Europe is addressing these by setting common standards and policies, by supporting educational, preventive and other measures to empower children, by promoting criminal justice action and by strengthening multi-stakeholder and international cooperation.
Council of Europe standards related to the protection of children and the promotion of their rights include numerous treaties and recommendations, in particular the:
European Social Charter (CETS 035)
European Convention on the Adoption of Children (CETS 202 as revised)
Convention on Cybercrime (CETS 185)
Recommendation Rec(2006)12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on empowering children in the new information and communications environment
Declaration on protecting the dignity, security and privacy of children on the Internet, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 20 February 2008
Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and to promote their active participation in the new information and communications environment, adopted on 8 July 2009.
Convention on Cybercrime (CETS 185)
The “Budapest” Convention on Cybercrime is the global standard on cybercrime. The implementation of the Convention is followed by the Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY), which is also responsible for dealing with policy issues and legal questions arising from the practical co-operation under this instrument. The Convention stipulates that state parties:
criminalise offences against and through computer systems. Article 9 covers child pornography in a broad manner
introduce procedural law measures to provide law enforcement with effective means to investigate cybercrime including child pornography and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children related to computer systems
cooperate efficiently with each other and provides a framework for international cooperation, including police and judicial cooperation in computer-related cases involving crimes against children.
This treaty represents the global standard and is open for accession by any country. Canada, Japan and South Africa have signed it, the USA has ratified it and Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Philippines have been invited to accede. More than 100 countries around the world have used or are using this treaty as a guideline for national legislation.
With regard to cybercrime, including computer-related offences against children, cooperation between law enforcement authorities and service providers is essential. For that reason, the Council of Europe – through the Project on Cybercrime – developed “Guidelines for the cooperation between law enforcement and ISPs in the investigation of cybercrime”.
This Convention represents the most advanced and comprehensive standard in this field. A body to monitor compliance with this treaty is envisaged to be set up in 2010. The Convention provides for:
the criminalisation of sexual abuse of children, child prostitution, child pornography, grooming and other conduct
preventive measures and assistance to victims
the participation of children, the private sector, the media and civil society in measures to protect children and prevent their abuse
holding nationals accountable for offences committed abroad
protecting children in the course of criminal proceedings
The Convention contains many references to the use of information and communication technologies in the context of the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. For example, it requires states to criminalise conduct such as knowingly accessing child pornography on the Internet. This treaty and the Convention on Cybercrime thus complement each other.
Broadest possible implementation of this treaty together with the Convention on Cybercrime is recommended as effective means to protect children against sexual exploitation and abuse and to hold offenders accountable.
Through the Global Project on Cybercrime, the Council of Europe supports countries worldwide in their efforts against cybercrime. Following a first phase from September 2006 to February 2009, the second phase is currently underway (March 2009 to June 2011) with public and private sector support.
The project is aimed at ensuring the implementation of the Convention on Cybercrime and consists of seven components, ranging from the strengthening of cybercrime legislation to law enforcement – service provider cooperation, financial investigations, data protection and international cooperation. One component is focusing on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse in line with the two conventions (CETS 185 on cybercrime and CETS 201 on the protection of children).
Within the Global Project on Cybercrime, a global
study on the measures taken by countries to criminalise conduct related
to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, including child
pornography is currently conducted.
The 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Warsaw 2005), among other things, led to the programme “Building a Europe for and with Children”. This programme aims at promoting the rights of children as well as their protection against all forms of violence. It is built on the four “P’s” of prevention, prosecution, protection and participation. Among the preventive measures related to the new media are a computer-game for children (Wild Web Woods) and an Internet Literacy Handbook.
A high-level conference on this topic in September 2008 led to the Stockholm strategy 2009 – 2011 with the objectives of implementing international standards in all 47 member States and of mainstreaming a child-rights perspective in all activities of the Council of Europe. For autumn 2010, a Europe-wide campaign against sexual violence against children is planned with a particular reference to the new media.
The Council of Europe furthermore recommends that:
Children are empowered so that they can acquire the necessary skills to create, produce and distribute content and communications helps them to exercise and enjoy their rights and freedoms, especially the right to freedom of expression and information. This is why the Committee of Ministers recommends (in its Recommendation (2006)012)) that member states ensure children become familiar with, and skilled in, the new information and communications environment and that, to this end, information literacy and training for children become an integral part of school education from an early stage in their lives.
Children have the confidence and trust online by being able to use “islands of trust” otherwise known as “walled gardens” in which they explore, learn and play. This is why CM adopted Recommendation (2009) 5 so that public-private partnerships are encouraged to (i) create and facilitate confidence building environments (walled gardens) for children to safely explore the Internet, (ii) create a human rights based pan-European trustmark which harnesses new and existing online content labelling systems, and (iii) improve children’s media literacy.
Children’s dignity, security and privacy on the Internet is strengthened and developed, in particular so that there are no lasting or permanently accessible records of the content created by children on the Internet which challenges their dignity, security and privacy or otherwise renders them vulnerable now or at a later stage in their lives.
Children have access to filters which are age appropriate and “intelligent” as a means of encouraging access to and confident use of the Internet and be a complement to other strategies on how to tackle harmful content. In this connection, the use of such filters should be proportionate and should not lead to the overprotection of children.