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Published 05.11.21

General comment No. 25 - Chapter XII: Special protection measures

XII. Special protection measures

A. Protection from economic, sexual and other forms of exploitation

  1. Children should be protected from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of theirwelfare in relation to the digital environment. Exploitation may occur in many forms, such as economic exploitation, including child labour, sexual exploitation and abuse, the sale, trafficking and abduction of children and the recruitment of children to participate in criminal activities, including forms of cybercrime. By creating and sharing content, children may be economic actors in the digital environment, which may result in their exploitation.

  2. States parties should review relevant laws and policies to ensure that children are protected against economic, sexual and other forms of exploitation and that their rights with regard to work in the digital environment and related opportunities for remuneration are protected.

  3. States parties should ensure that appropriate enforcement mechanisms are in place and support children, parents and caregivers in gaining access to the protections that apply. They should legislate to ensure that children are protected from harmful goods, such as weapons or drugs, or services, such as gambling. Robust age verification systems should be used to prevent children from acquiring access to products and services that are illegal for them to own or use. Such systems should be consistent with data protection and safeguarding requirements.

  4. Considering States’ obligations to investigate, prosecute and punish trafficking in persons, including its component actions and related conduct, States parties should develop and update anti-trafficking legislation so that it prohibits the technology-facilitated recruitment of children by criminal groups.

  5. States parties should ensure that appropriate legislation is in place to protect children from the crimes that occur in the digital environment, including fraud and identity theft, and to allocate sufficient resources to ensure that crimes in the digital environment are investigated and prosecuted. States parties should also require a high standard of cybersecurity, privacy-by-design and safety-by-design in the digital services and products that children use, to minimize the risk of such crimes.

  6. B. Administration of child justice

  7. Children may be alleged to have, accused of or recognized as having infringed, cybercrime laws. States parties should ensure that policymakers consider the effects of such laws on children, focus on prevention and make every effort to create and use alternatives to a criminal justice response.

  8. Self-generated sexual material by children that they possess and/or share with their consent and solely for their own private use should not be criminalized. Child-friendly channels should be created to allow children to safely seek advice and assistance where it relates to self-generated sexually explicit content.

  9. States parties should ensure that digital technologies, surveillance mechanisms, such as facial recognition software, and risk profiling that are deployed in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes are not used to unfairly target children suspected of or charged with criminal offences and are not used in a manner that violates their rights, in particular their rights to privacy, dignity and freedom of association.

  10. The Committee recognizes that, where the digitization of court proceedings results in a lack of in-person contact with children, it may have a negative impact on rehabilitative and restorative justice measures built on developing relationships with the child. In such cases, and also where children are deprived of their liberty, States parties should provide in-person contact to facilitate children’s ability to meaningfully engage with the courts and their rehabilitation.

  11. C. Protection of children in armed conflict, migrant children and children in other vulnerable situations

  12. The digital environment can provide children living in vulnerable situations, including children in armed conflict, internally displaced children, migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children, unaccompanied children, children in street situations and children affected by natural disasters, with access to life-saving information that is vital for their protection. The digital environment can also enable them to maintain contact with their families, enable their access to education, health and other basic services and enable them to obtain food and safe shelter. States parties should ensure safe, secure, private and beneficial access for such children to the digital environment and protect them from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse.

  13. States parties should ensure that children are not recruited or used in conflicts, including armed conflicts, through the digital environment. That includes preventing, criminalizing and sanctioning the various forms of technology-facilitated solicitation and grooming of children, for example, though use of social networking platforms or chat services in online games.

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