Government supports Commission proposal to combat child sexual abuse online
The Government considers it very important to be able to address effectively the sexual exploitation of children on the internet and supports the European Commission’s proposal for a regulation to combat child sexual abuse online.
The regulation would safeguard opportunities for providers of electronic communications services to disclose and report material identified as child sexual abuse and to remove such material. The regulation would set out in particular the technological methods by which the processing of electronic communications is permitted.
The Government submitted a communication on the matter to Parliament on 1 October 2020.
From 21 December 2020, providers of number-independent communication services must comply in the EU with the ePrivacy Directive. Thereafter, such service providers may no longer process material that contains child sexual abuse, unless this is specifically provided for in the legislation of the Member States. Number-independent services include instant messaging services such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
Combating child sexual abuse is a priority for the EU. As a result, on 10 September 2020, the Commission adopted a proposal for an interim regulation allowing the processing of data (such as personal data) of instant messaging service users in the EU area where combating child sexual abuse in the online environment is involved. Such activity is voluntary on the part of service providers.
Child protection is important, tools must be effective
Legislation must provide authorities and other actors with adequate tools to protect children online. In view of the cross-border nature of the phenomenon and the intervention tools required, it would be important for child protection issues to be considered as a whole at EU level.
The Government notes, however, that negotiations on the proposal must ensure that the proposed tools are proportionate to the objective pursued. Intrusion into the protection of confidentiality of communications and other fundamental rights must be restricted only to what is necessary. The interim regulation must be based on voluntary action and communication service providers must not be required to monitor the legality of content in general. In addition, it must be ensured that the tasks and status of service providers remain within the framework of the Constitution, as required by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
Current Finnish legislation does not include grounds for processing electronic communications to combat child sexual abuse. For Finnish service providers, the proposal would provide new tools to address illegal material transmitted in services. The global instant messaging services currently in use are, however, mainly outside the scope of Finnish law, so in practice the application of the regulation in Finland would probably be limited.
The regulation proposal is due to be dealt with swiftly in the EU and will enter into force as early as this year.
During 2021, the Commission will propose legislative changes to combat child sexual abuse online, at which time this interim regulation would be repealed.
Piia Nyström, Legislative Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 969
Marième Korhonen, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 134