Despite its many positive advantages, unfortunately the internet has opened an all too accessible front for child abuse. All of us are only too aware that criminals and paedophiles are able to use websites around the world to distribute and share child abuse content.
Along with MEP colleagues Emma McClarkin ,Vicky Ford , Timothy Kirkhope, Silvia Costa, Richard Howitt, Gay Mitchell, Roberta Angelilli, Iva Zanicchi , Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Seán Kelly and Diane Dodds, I have co-signed this European Parliament Written Declaration:
1. Child sexual abuse content is one of the most abhorrent types of content available, and the production, possession or distribution of such content is universally considered a criminal act;
2. The cross-border nature of most online child sexual abuse content shows that strong international cooperation is necessary;
3. The commercial distribution of such content could potentially be profitable for organised crime structures;
4. Behind every image of child sexual abuse there is a real victim;
5. The most effective way to deal with such content is to remove it at source in cooperation with law enforcement agencies;
6. It is therefore important to share internationally information and expertise regarding the fight against online sexual abuse content;
7. Adequate reporting and take-down mechanisms in respect of child sexual abuse content in every country are crucial;
8. The Commission is called upon to consider developing as well as developed countries when establishing international cooperation to combat online child sexual abuse content;
9. The Commission is called upon to support the creation of online child sexual abuse reporting mechanisms that meet acceptable global standards regarding transparency and freedom of expression;
The laws governing illegal online content differ from country to country which makes taking down abusive content and prosecuting the criminals responsible time-consuming and difficult. In many cases there is also a commercial dimension to online child abuse content with the distribution of illegal material being profitable for organised crime.
In 2010 it was estimated that over 200 images of child pornography are put into circulation ever day and that the victims are getting younger and the content more violent and graphic. Other studies suggest that 10-20% of European children will suffer some form of sexual abuse as a child. This is an issue which is growing in severity and impact. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström hit the nail on the head. “The response of the EU cannot be too clear or too resolute. Whatever the EU can possibly do against that, the EU must do and will do.”
Global action is needed to fight online child abuse. As you will have seen, this Written Declaration is a cross party project involving members from every main European political grouping. Ending child abuse is an issue that transcends party lines and enjoys support across the political spectrum. I hope we will see huge support from the European Parliament for the Written Declaration.