EP and Council negotiators reached a provisional deal on new temporary legislation to avoid sexual exploitation of children online and make it easier to report. The agreed changes provide for a derogation to the confidentiality of the communication and traffic data articles of the rules governing the privacy of electronic communications and enable the providers of web-based email, chats and messaging services to voluntarily detect, remove and report child sexual abuse online as well as to use scanning technologies to detect cyber grooming.

Online material linked to child sexual abuse is detected through specific technologies that scan the content, such as images and text, or traffic data. Hashing technology is used for images and videos to detect child sex abuse material, and classifiers and artificial intelligence are used to analyse text or traffic data to detect cyber grooming.

Parliament’s negotiators secured that national data protection authorities will have stronger oversight of the technologies used, an improved complaint and remedy mechanism, and that the processed data should be analysed by a person before being reported further. Service providers will also have to improve their reporting on statistics.

This temporary legislation should apply for a maximum of three years, or fewer should new permanent rules on tackling child sexual abuse online be agreed in the meantime.

The deal will now be put to the Civil Liberties Committee and plenary for approval as well as to the Council. The Commission proposed to amend the e-privacy directive to allow service providers to continue to voluntarily detect child sex abuse online after the entry into force of Electronic Communications Code in September 2020. Parliament adopted its mandate for negotiations in December 2020. The Commission announced in July 2020, as part of its strategy to combat child sexual abuse more effectively, that it will propose a more permanent solution regarding combating child sexual abuse online in the course of 2021.