COMECE contribution on fighting child sexual abuse online

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of European Union (COMECE) submitted on Wednesday 14 April 2021 a contribution to the EU Commission’s public consultation on Child sexual abuse online, stressing the need to reinforce EU legislation and policies to better protect children online.

The European Commission is gearing up to propose legislation on tackling online child sexual abuse, also establishing a European Centre to prevent and counter this appalling phenomenon.
In collaboration with the Irish Bishops’ Conference, COMECE submitted a contribution to the consultation, centered on tackling in particular online grooming of children, circulation of self-generated sexual content and new trends such as child sexual abuse via live streaming.

In its contribution, COMECE stresses the crucial role of transparency, as well as of a victim-centric and trauma-informed perspective, in view of protecting the best interest of children and give them a voice. One of the main challenges highlighted in the COMECE contribution is to make sure that privacy laws do not create an undue obstacle to detecting offenders.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church considers the protection of children online to be a priority and a public health issue. According to COMECE, a multi-agency approach would be required, including faith-based actors and Church agencies, as well as the support of technology experts.

Regarding the proposed Centre to prevent and counter the phenomenon of child sexual abuse online, the COMECE contribution suggests various possible tasks: education, public awareness and research, information about advanced detection technology, strategic advice on public health awareness initiatives, guidance.

Finally, in consideration of the EU’s tendency to replace the expression “child pornography” with “child sexual abuse material”, COMECE underlines that in no case the new terminology should lead to a diminished protection for the children.