Child Protection Online

Child Protection Online is a key commitment of the Digital Agenda for Europe. Commissioner Neelie Kroes has asked the ICT sector to respond to these challenges and gathered a coalition of top tech and media companies to make a better and safer internet for children (the CEO Coalition).

Ahead of the coalition review in the summer of 2012 the British Chamber organised this short half day conference with a range of stakeholders. A large audience of industry representatives and NGOs joined MEPs and European Commission officials at the European Parliament in Brussels to exchange views on ‘age-appropriate privacy settings’ and ‘effective reporting of abuse’ and identify the best way forward for policymakers.

Robert Madelin (Director General, DG INFSO) gave a keynote speech highlighting the coalition’s five priorities: effective reporting tools, age appropriate privacy settings, content classification, parental controls and the fast and effective take down of inappropriate materials.

Age-appropriate Privacy Settings
Educating children on the consequences of sharing online is a responsibility that is shared among all of us. Effective ways of sharing this responsibility are essential in ensuring that children have an appropriate internet experience. In the context of privacy, people and especially children, should also be empowered by online service providers with control over each piece of content they share on the internet and choose the audience with whom they are sharing it with. Establishing “age-appropriate privacy settings” in which distinctions are made between different age groups and defaults set accordingly for different types of content could help create a safer environment for children online.

Sabine Verheyen MEP highlighted the importance of the recently agreed directive to combat sexual abuse of children and child pornography. Katia Segers, a researcher at the VUB (Free University of Brussels) outlined some key elements from a major survey involving 25,000 parents and children.

Janice Richardson, Network Coordinator for Insafe, organisers of Safer Internet Day, highlighted the fact that social media designed for older children or adults is being used by very young children and that at least half of children and adults do not know how to use privacy settings. Melina Violari, Policy & Privacy Manager for Facebook, emphasised that for minoirs, default privacy settings are deliberately high, with users able to opt-out of these rather than opt-in.

Effective Reporting of Abuse
In order to maintain a safe digital environment for children it is essential to ensure an effective cooperation amongst online service providers, hotlines, NGOs and law enforcement authorities around the World. The most important design goal of any efficient reporting system should be to get the right report to the right person who can help with that particular issue. Escalating the right report to the relevant hotline, NGO or law enforcement authority who can provide help is essential in maintaining a safe environment for children online.

Khalil Rouhana, Director for Digital Content and Cognitive Systems at DG INFSO outlined the Commission’s priorities in detecting and taking down child abuse materials on the internet, pursuing criminals and ensuring such materials did not reappear elsewhere. Will Gardner, Chief Executive of Childnet International focused on the importance of ensuring the confidence and trust of users of reporting tools, including prompt feedback.

Adrian Dwyer, Chief Executive of INHOPE described the body’s work representing and supporting internet hotlines all over the world and Patricia Cartes,Privacy & Policy Principal for Facebook, described the ways the company provides and uses reporting tools, including social reporting, to build the effectiveness of industry and law enforcement efforts.

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