The Council of Europe has been promoting the protection of children and their empowerment in a digital environment for many years, including through the current “Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child” which states that children:
“... have the right to learn, play and communicate online – and to be protected from bullying, hate speech, radicalisation, sexual abuse, and other risks of the "dark net". Guaranteeing the rights of the child in the digital environment is a key challenge all member States of the Council of Europe face, and the Strategy will help them provide children with practical knowledge of how to be online and stay safe.”
A range of educational materials and guidelines has been made available.
The Council of Europe has declared 18 November as the “European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse” and focused the 2017 edition on the “protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICTs)”. Several tutorials were made available regarding sextortion, sexting, grooming, “revenge porn” and others.
Another educational campaign, called the “No Hate Speech Movement”, has been run by the Council of Europe since 2012. This campaign aims to combat online racism and discrimination by mobilising young people and youth organisations to recognise and act against these human rights violations. The campaign was extended to the end of 2017 as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan on the Fight against Violent Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism and pursued the following objectives:
- organise educational activities in and out of schools based on the Bookmarks manual on combating hate speech online through human rights education;
- recognise hate speech as a human rights abuse and incorporate this principle into human rights and citizenship education programmes;
- mobilise and co-ordinate with European and national partners as well as with law-enforcement agencies and national monitoring bodies concerning the response against hate speech;
- develop and disseminate tools and mechanisms for reporting hate speech, especially at national level;
- promote 22 July as the European Day for Victims of Hate Crime;
- place a special focus on hate speech directed at refugees and asylum seekers, sexist hate speech, and anti-Semitism, while taking into account the root causes of violent extremism;
- develop counter-narratives against hate speech;
- create greater regional co-operation to support national campaigns;
- support the implementation of the Council of Europe’s relevant instruments, such as the guide, “Human Rights for Internet Users,” the general recommendation of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance on combating hate speech and the Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime on xenophobia and racism.
With regard to specifically sexist hate speech, a background note has been prepared by the Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Unit.
Article 9 Budapest Convention covers child pornography involving real children who are victims, but also persons appearing to be minors as well as realistic (morphed) images, that is, situations without a real child as a victim. Requiring criminalisation of related acts through article 9.2.b and 9.2.c thus has a protective function and is to prevent a “subculture favouring child abuse”.
Article 25 of the European Union Directive 2011/93/EU of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography is also to “facilitate prevention and mitigate secondary victimisation”. It obliges EU member States to promptly remove child abuse materials within their territory and to endeavour to secure removal of materials hosted elsewhere. It furthermore offers the possibility to block access to child pornography. In December 2016, the European Commission published an assessment of the implementation of article 25.
The prevention of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation is also one of the aims of the Lanzarote Convention (see article 1(a) and chapter II).
Chapter III of the Istanbul Convention covers a range of measures to prevent violence against women and family violence, from promoting changes in social behaviour to awareness and education and preventive intervention and treatment programmes.