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Council delays decision on scanning all online images to combat child sexual abuse

Europa building photos S3 room (15/01/21, Bruxelles)
Europa building photos S3 room (15/01/21, Bruxelles) Copyright European Union
Copyright European Union
By Romane Armangau
Published on Updated
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Despite being close to securing the necessary majority for an agreement on the child sexual abuse material regulation, the vote has been postponed as significant disagreements remain.


EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels today (20 June) delayed discussions over controversial wording of a regulation to protect children online off the table today since it was clear there was not enough agreement among member states to advance the proposal, according to an EU Council source.

The wording proposed using so called 'upload moderation' to compel encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and Messenger to include surveillance technology that would scan all users' images.

For more details on the upload moderation, see Euronews previous article here.

To be accepted, the proposal would need the support of more than half the countries (15 of 27) representing at least 65% of the total EU population. Some countries including France fear the measure would compromise the integrity of encrypted communications, which should in principle only be accessible by sender and recipient. 

"In the last hours, it appeared that the required qualified majority would just not be met," the source said, adding that the presidency decided to withdraw the item and continue the consultations. 

It remains unclear whether the Belgians will continue to seek a general agreement in the coming days, as two further meetings of the relevant ambassadors' meetings - Coreper II -are scheduled for 24 and 26 June. "This remains a high priority for the Council, and the work will continue to find a position and start the negotiations with the European Parliament. This is a clear commitment from the Council to continue protecting children from despicable crimes," the source added.

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The European Commissioner for Values and Transparency has acknowledged that breaking encryption is a necessity of the Child Sexual Abuse Material regulation.

"The Commission proposed the method or the rule that even encrypted messaging can be broken for the sake of better protecting children," Věra Jourová told the European Data Protection Summit today.

Jourová's comments appeared to contradict statements by Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, who proposed the regulation and never mentionned a breaking of encrypted communication. "My Bill is not about encryption, it’s not even mentioned. The Bill includes nothing to do with encryption ... my Bill is technology neutral. This is not a Bill intended to break or weaken encryption." she said In 2023, in a interview with the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladetshe.

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