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Published 13.11.18

Child protection - children’s rights - human rights - report from day 2 IGF 2018, 13.11.2018

Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

The protection of children was one of the major themes on day 2. In the morning, WeProtect Global Alliance, ACSIS, an organisation gathering more than 600 civil society organisations vom from the African Continent, UNICEF, the Internet Watch Foundation and Arda Gerkens, Senator in the Dutch Parliament were engaged in a debate on fighting the sexual exploitation of children. Exorbitantly rising numbers of child sexual abuse imagery, new forms of abuse as live streamed videos, and an ever younger age of the children depicted, so Susie Hargreaves, IWF, demonstrate the necessity of immediate action. At the same time especially on the African continent more and more children have mobile access to the Internet, but they lack offers of media literacy training in order to be empowered to cope with the risks, stressed Aicha Jeridi, ACSIS.

Anjan Bose, UNICEF, presented the catalogue developed by the WeProtect Global Alliance covering 21 issues, the so called Model National Response. Participating countries can implement the catalogue according to their national situation in order to combat sexual abuse of children. Based on the catalogue ‚threat assessments’ were performed for the first time in several countries, to measure the risks and implement respective policies. The full report can be found at We Protect Global Alliance.

Arda Gerkens referred to the possibility to address the phenomenon based on administrative law. Only an authority endowed with the necessary powers could bring the service providers hosting such content to delete it. We need a zero tolerance strategy towards child sexual abuse, so Gerkens. But it would also be necessary to provide advice and assistance for those men who consume this type of content since only if demand were to dry up, the swamp of these offers could be drained away.

In the following session organised by the Dynamic Coalition on Child Online Safety web services directly offered to children or used by them were in the focus of the debate. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child children have the right to access to information, to express their opinion freely and participate to society together with others. Also they have the right to privacy and to protection, especially from sexual abuse and commercial exploitation. Nowadays children have access to networked devices and services at an ever younger age. Education of children therefore also has to enable them to make use of digital opportunities responsibly. Nonetheless responsibility could and should not be with parents and pedagogues alone, so a majority of participants to the session. Rather, providers would have to develop new services in such a way that they can be used safely by children. Offers that are designed in a way that motivates children to maximum engagement with the service, for example apps that provide incentives for longer and more intensive use, are as questionable as services that reward the number of users linked to the profile, or games that require the purchase of items for a fee to reach the next level. This leads to a commercialisation of childhood, which is based in particular on the evaluation of the behaviour recorded during the use of the services and the economisation of these data for the development of new services. The participants in the session called for an ethical debate on such business practices; providers should take into account the different needs of children as based on their psychological developmental.

Both themes also made their way into the thematic main session „Effective policies for inclusive und prosperous digital transformation - what’s needed?“, jointly organised with the Dynamic Coalitions as well as the final thematic main session on Human Rights and Internet Governance.