Children make up one in five of all users of the internet within the EU, and yet they do not have adequate protection online. Keeping children safe online must be a priority. This is one of the principal reasons why ECPAT International and ECPAT’s member organisations across the EU, supported by Oak Foundation, established Project Beacon.

The laws upholding children’s rights in digital spaces

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and in particular the Digital Services Act (DSA) are the long-awaited updates to the e-Commerce Directive of 2000 in the European Union (EU). The DSA is just one of several strategic and legislative initiatives currently being taken by the EU to uphold children’s rights, including in digital spaces. The DSA contains several very welcome provisions which are specific, but it does not go far enough in terms of protecting them in the digital environment. One such provision is the eagerly anticipated longer-term legislation that is intended to address the large and growing presence of child sexual abuse material on the internet and the online grooming of children for sexual purposes.

Current laws are not enough

With the DSA not going far enough, we risk child rights in general, and child protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in particular, to fall through the gaps. We must not repeat the debacle that led to the necessity for an interim derogation to the e-Privacy Directive earlier this year. To prevent this from happening, ECPAT International wants the following amendments included in the draft DSA which will ensure children’s rights are clearly addressed in legislation, policy, and practice throughout the EU – and not just assumed or implied.

The changes in law needed to keep children safe online

The amendments required cover a wide range of areas to help keep children safe online, including the need to achieve legal liability for technology companies; transparency and accountability in reporting and services; and due diligence terms and conditions, such as adopting a safety-first approach. We are also supporting a “children’s clause” that was advanced by 12 MEPs from the European People’s Party, Socialists & Democrats and Renew Europe Group as part of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights. ECPAT has endorsed the “children’s clause” through a CSO Call, organized by the 5 Rights Foundation.

These amendments are the only clear way to ensure children are firmly put at the heart of digital policy. We cannot accept any compromises. Through Project Beacon, ECPAT International has shared these required amendments to MEPs with the aim of helping to make the changes needed to better protect children in the digital space.

We need your help

This issue is currently not getting enough attention, and we need to act now and jointly to make sure the future of the internet includes children’s safety as a top priority. Join us in the fight to give children the right to protection in the digital space by following our conversations about this on Twitter and sharing your thoughts with us.