Children's rights, sharenting & kidfluencingTorsten Krause, SDC
Children's rights, sharenting & kidfluencing - these topics were the focus of a panel discussion at the conference „Content with conscience: on the support of Influencers and Online Content Creators“, which was hosted by the Belgian government as an event of its current EU Council Presidency on 27 February 2024 in Brussels. Against the backdrop of the increasing importance of social media and the associated impact that influencers also have on children and young people, the Belgian government invited government representatives of European countries, influencers, civil society organisations and service to exchange views. Together, they discussed whether and how possible rules of conduct can help influencers to use their influence responsibly.
In the panel "Ethics of kidfluencers, mom/dadfluencers, sharenting", we pointed out, based on our experience in the project "Child protection and children's rights in the digital world", that an informed and free consent of the child is central to whether and in what context content relating to the child can be published online. The possibility of informed consent, especially for young children, and the free decision of children who are dependent on their parents pose particular challenges. The possibility of having published content deleted was also discussed. One of the difficulties here is that providers generally do not have any organised procedures for this and effective processes for enforcing the right to be forgotten are not yet sufficiently established. The out-of-court dispute settlement mechanism pursuant to Article 21 DSA is also intended to provide a remedy in such cases. This means that users can contact an appropriately certified body to seek clarification on decisions made by providers with which they disagree. Nevertheless, it makes sense to check in advance what content and data is published on the internet, and to use this opportunity to minimise data, e.g. by using images that do not depict a child's face. Further information on the conscious depiction of children on the Internet can also be found on this page of CRIN, the Child Rights International Network.
Measures required to protect children from sexual violence onlineYonca Ekinci, SDC
On February 20, 2024, the NGO Protect Children from Finland published its research report with actionable recommendations for platform providers to prevent sexual violence against children online. The data was collected quantitatively over the past three years from December 2020 to January 2024 in form of an anonymous survey titled "Help us to help you". The online survey was suggested to people searching for images of sexual violence against children on the internet. This research method provides an unprecedented insight into the behavioral patterns and habits of online offenders.Based on the data collected, Protect Children proves that images of sexual violence against children are easy to access online and disseminate very quickly on the internet. Accordingly, the most commonly used ways to consume, share and disseminate images of sexual violence against children are the surface web, social media platforms and messaging services.
Offenders are able to use available functions on the platforms for purposes other than their intended purpose, as there are no relevant prevention and intervention measures under criminal law. For example, the algorithm of some platforms can help offenders to connect with like-minded people and disseminate images. Therefore Platforms unintentionally create places where illegal activities can be committed. The European Commission is sharply criticized for failing to protect children from sexual exploitation online. There is a lack of a regulated legal framework to protect children appropriately.
The study provides the following recommendations for action for the tech industry and other stakeholders:
- Build & develop platforms with children's rights-by-design approaches
- Ensure access to online safety resources and educational information for children
- Effective reporting and removal of depictions of child sexual violence and exploitation
- Implementing deterrents for perpetrators and prevention measures
- Ensure robust age verification systems
Ways to implement these recommendations for action are presented in detail in the report, which can be read here.
Further development of EU regulations to combat sexual abuse of childrenTorsten Krause, SDC
The European Commission intends to further develop existing regulations to combat sexual abuse of children. The focus here is on additions to cover the extent of such violence in digital environments in the future, to strengthen the prevention of offences and the support of affected children and to promote cooperation between member states in the investigation and prosecution of offences. Terminologies will also be further developed and higher penalties suggested.
Suggestions and comments on the European Commission's proposal can be submitted on this page until (probably) 11 April 2024. The comments received will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the European Council so that they can be taken into account in the subsequent legislative process.
Consider children's rights in internet governanceTorsten Krause, SDC
One in three of the approximately 5 billion people who use the internet and the digital environment worldwide is a child. According to Article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all young people have a right to participate in media from a variety of sources and to be protected in their use of them. In 2021, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child explained in detail how states parties should fulfil this human rights provision in General Comment No. 25.
Against this backdrop, the rights and interests of children are also being discussed in a number of forums on the regulation and organisation of the internet. It is therefore to be expected that these will also be given extensive consideration at the upcoming Internet Governance Forum. The survey carried out at the beginning of the year to determine the IGF topic revealed that most participants in the area of "Cybersecurity and trust" were in favour of addressing the protection of children on the internet. In the topic area "Rights and freedoms", human rights was also voted number one, a concern that is not possible without addressing the rights of children. The request for consultations on media literacy and media education in the area of "Economic issues and development" also speaks in favour of focusing on young people.
At the informal United Nations consultation on the Global Digital Compact on 13 February, several organisations also spoke out in favour of taking young people and their rights and interests into account. It is important not only to focus on the protection rights of young people, but also to address their rights to promotion and participation. In order for this to be achieved effectively, it is advisable to involve them and utilise their experience and knowledge as resources for shaping the digital environment and the internet.
In order to provide a common basis for its own activities in the international area of digital policy, the German government agreed on a strategy for an international digital policy for the first time on 7 February. In due course, this strategy will serve as a guideline for Germany's digital policy activities around the world. Nine principles describe how the German government intends to work internationally to protect fundamental and human rights and promote a global, open, free and secure internet. Value-based technology partnerships, the promotion of human-centric and innovation-friendly rules, the support of trustworthy and secure cross-border data flows and the active shaping of international norms and standards are intended to contribute to this. In addition, the German government is focusing on strengthening secure and sustainable digital infrastructures and mitigate risks in technology value chains. The aim is to contribute to using digitalisation to overcome global challenges.
The fact that the German government is in favour of supporting the multi-stakeholder approach in its strategy for an international digital policy is to be welcomed. Only when politics, the private sector, civil society, science and research come together can effective ideas be found for shaping and regulating the internet. These are necessary to enable children to participate safely in digital environments.