Written Declaration on Online Child Abuse

Labour Party

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.

Europarl TV Interview on Protecting Children Online

Labour Party

This week I did a short interview for Europarl TV that you can watch online.  In it I am talking about a report currently going through the parliament on the protection of children online written by my colleague from the S&D Silvia Costa.

Please follow the link here to watch the video.  It’s the first piece in the video.

Child safety online is taken up by the European Parliament

Labour Party

The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international organisation who has been working for many years now on how to make the internet a safer place for children, organised a conference earlier in the week. Held in the European Parliament, I was pleased to be one of the panelist in a wide-ranging discussion.

The European Commission’s has recently released a Communication on online safety that includes a road map for action over the next few years.  The Communication seeks to give children the digital skills and tools they need to benefit fully and safely from the digital world.  It plans to do this by getting the Commission, Member States and the online industry to get together on various proposals that would “build up the market for interactive, creative and educational content online”. (Read the full communication here)

The computer and mobile phone industry was well represented as were NGOs and policy makers. All sides were in general agreement that the  European Commission’s proposal was a positive development in tackling this important issue. While I believe that what the Commission is proposing is encouraging, I remain uncertain as to whether it will be enough.  The Commission clearly wants industry to regulate itself, only stepping in with legislation when it fails to do so.  Although I heard a number of very promising things from the various people from the industry who were there, I still feel there is room for the Commission and indeed the European Parliament to get involved.

My main area of concern is that the varying approaches across the EU mean that children have different levels of empowerment and protection online.  The European Union has meant that our national borders have become, at the very least, less rigid, and the internet completely ignores them.  That is why I support my colleague Silvia Costa’s suggestion in her recent report on this subject for a single framework directive on the rights of minors in the digital world.

We will never be able to completely guarantee the safety of children, either online or out in the world, but we should set a standard across the EU the member states and the internet and mobile technology industry have to abide by.

Lux Prize 2010

Labour Party

This week sees the announcement of the LUX Prize winner for 2010.  Last night there was a reception where the directors of the three films got to meet the MEPs.  Some S&D colleagues were there including Group Vice-President Maria Badia i Cutchet (pictured left) and Silvia Costa (right).  

I think that schemes like the LUX prize offer the European Parliament the unique opportunity to support Europe’s home-grown talent.  I very much enjoyed the opportunity to watch the all three films of the finalists, but in the end only one could win and the Parliament awarded this year’s LUX Cinema Prize to “Die Fremde”, by Feo Aladağ (Germany), which highlights the problem of “honour killings” by depicting the drama of a Turkish family living in Germany.

Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek awarded this year’s LUX Cinema Prize to “Die Fremde” director Feo Aladağ, the first woman ever to compete for the prize. The film’s lead actress Sibel Kekilli was also at the ceremony, as were representatives of the two other finalists shortlisted for this year’s prize: “Akadimia Platonos” by Filippos Tsitos (Greece and Germany) and “Illégal” by Olivier Masset-Depasse (Belgium).

Awarding the prize, the EP President Jerzy Buzek said “the three films deal in a very sensitive way with the issue of identity, and the differences between a collective identity and an individual one. This is an important topic because in an ever more integrated Europe we will have to answer the question what it actually means to be European, and what our many identities – local, regional, national and European – mean in a united continent. If we want to create a true European demos, we have to be able to truly understand each other. What better way than through culture, art, music and, of course, films?”

Receiving the prize, Mrs Aladağ said “I made Die Fremde because I believe we live in a multicultural society which can no longer rest on promoting consensus but must rather find new ways in dealing with arising divergence. The LUX Prize is an essential bridge between national identities and beyond. That is why, for me, the European Parliament’s commitment to culture and education is of such great importance.”

The winner will receive European Parliament funding, worth €90,000, for subtitling the film in all official EU languages, adapting the original version for visually- or hearing-impaired people and producing a 35 mm print per EU Member State or for the DVD release.