The scale of online child sexual exploitation and abuse is increasing at an alarming rate. To date, the response to this challenge consists also of voluntary actions involving the use of automated detection technologies by private sector actors to detect, report and remove child sexual abuse materials.
While this is vital to help rescue child victims, investigate crimes and stop circulation of abuse material, the use of automated technology may impact on the confidentiality of communications that service providers must ensure. It therefore may constitute an interference with the right to private and family life and to the protection of personal data of those involved.
States have a positive obligation to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. To do so, they must however take into account a complex and evolving environment both from technological and legal points of view.
In December 2020, the State Parties to the Lanzarote Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse asked the Council of Europe to support them in exploring appropriate solutions.
The first answer to the Lanzarote Committee’s call is the report “Respecting human rights and the rule of law when using automated technology to detect online child sexual exploitation and abuse”. It combines Council of Europe expertise in the fields of human rights, child protection, data protection and fight against cybercrime, and it explores appropriate solutions to reconcile human rights at stake. The report calls for the establishment of a public interest-based framework grounded in the Lanzarote Convention, enabling service providers to automatically detect, remove and report child sexual abuse materials and transfer relevant information for further investigation under appropriate data protection and privacy conditions.
Report: Respecting human rights and the rule of law when using automated technology to detect online child sexual exploitation and abuse
Council of Europe: Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention)
Council of Europe: Mapping out the Lanzarote Convention (State Parties)