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EU wants to step up fight to protect children from sexual abuse online

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Euronews Brussels, European Commissioner, Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, June 9 2020
Euronews Brussels, European Commissioner, Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, June 9 2020   -   Copyright  Euronews Brussels
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Europe is stepping up the fight against online child sexual abuse, a problem which appears to be getting worse particularly during coronavirus lockdowns.

The European Commission is proposing a series of measures to strengthen law enforcement capacities to help children escape abuse and to arrest the perpetrators.

Ylva Johansson, the EU's Commissioner for Home Affairs, said there were indicators that child sexual abuse was increasing "enormously" during lockdown.

“There are very worrying signs that this might be exploding during the corona crisis," she said.

One important step is to ensure greater cooperation at a global level.

“We can see that where we are successful is when Europol works together with police forces in member states and also with the police forces in other countries outside Europe," says Johansson, "then we can track the abusers and we can get and release and rescue the children.

Commissioner Johansson also said she would 'not exclude the possibility of further legislation' for tech companies. However, she added that cooperation with social media giants would also be important to combat the proliferation of illegal content online.

According to UK NGO National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) there were over 4,000 recorded instances where Facebook apps were used in child abuse image and online child sexual offences in 2019.

For Commissioner Johansson the question of making the internet a safe place for children is the utmost priority.

"We have regulation already that it is mandatory, to detect fraud towards copyright issues, so I think if we can protect copyright issues I think we can also protect children.”

The initiative comes shortly after a high profile case in Germany where police released a statement on June 6 about uncovering a suspected child abuse ring and arrested 11 people in Munster.

The main suspect is accused of filming and photographing the sexual abuse of three children and making the material accessible via the darknet.

The investigations date back to a case from 2018. An unknown person had offered data containing child sexual abuse over the Internet. This led to an IP address, which then led to the farm where the 27-year old main suspect worked as IT expert.

"Children have rights and we are obliged to protect them and we are not doing that good enough," said Johansson.