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Child porn a key political challenge, says internet safety body

14 Apr 2021 / technology Print

Child porn a key challenge, says German minister

The Association of the Internet Industry, which combats illegal online content, has reported an improvement in takedowns and criminal investigation figures.

The body’s 2020 annual report details a total of 5,523 justified complaints, displaying a clear violation of the law.

Actionable

Almost 40% of the complaints received in the reporting year were actionable.

A complaint is considered as justified if a violation of the law is detected. The proportion of justified complaints increased by around 18.7 percentage points compared with the previous year.

Child pornography accounted for almost two-thirds of complaints in 2020.

Adult pornography reports (1,149 cases) increased significantly compared with the previous year and were also at the same level as 2018.

Of 759 complaints received regarding potentially anti-constitutional content, just under 10% were classified as illegal.

The 2020 complaints decreased slightly compared with the previous year and stood at roughly at the same level as 2018. 

This includes “incitement of the masses”, as well as the dissemination of propaganda and the use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations.

Not all extremist content is subject to criminal prosecution, meaning that such material requires intensive scrutiny.

The total of 5,523 complaints was up almost one-fifth on the previous year, with most reports delivered by citizens.

Premium accounts

Contrary to expectations, the 2020 lockdown did not see an increase in reports on illegal content in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Alexandra Koch-Skiba, head of the complaints office, said in a webinar yesterday (13 April) that better international collaboration and access to premium accounts had led to better outcomes.

“In 2020, there was no big increase in reporting,” she said. “Being more online and having more screen time doesn’t automatically mean more illegal content.

“The majority of people are using the internet for the purposes of staying in touch with friends, home schooling, or home office.”

However, more awareness of the dangers of harmful content for young people will help in protection, she said.

Media literacy should spread into schools to raise awareness of dangers of sexual abuse and grooming when children go online, she said.

A total of 14,420 complaints were reported regarding potentially criminal content or content relevant to protection of minors.

A large proportion (11,012 cases) related to depictions of the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of minors.

Around 21% of complainants provided personal data when submitting their reports, while 17% submitted anonymously.

Attuned

“People have become highly attuned to the fact that they can report illegal Internet content with just a few clicks and thus contribute to its permanent take-down and criminal investigation,” says Koch-Skiba.

“Each and every individual contributes to the fight against child pornography, incitement of the masses, and violence on the Internet.”

Professor Christian Kastrop, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, adds: “Hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories are currently spreading at high speed on the Internet.

“Our society must do everything in its power to counter this development. Hate speakers and extremists must not be left to their own devices, and statements that are liable to prosecution must be investigated at all costs.”

Kastrop added that child pornography must be prosecuted quickly and effectively under criminal law: “Sexualised violence traumatises children for their entire lives. Combatting it is therefore one of the most important socio-political challenges of our time and a central task of the state.”

Responsibility

“Internet providers and companies are already taking on a lot of responsibility in tracking illegal internet content as quickly as possible and in having it permanently removed,” said Koch-Skiba.

“Voluntary self-regulation works – also internationally. Further mechanisms such as mandatory upload filters would only counteract this approach.”

Internet providers and companies are already taking on a lot of responsibility in tracking illegal Internet content as quickly as possible and in having it permanently removed, says Koch-Skiba.

A total of 97.7% of complaints were successfully acted upon in 2020, by either being removed or legalised, for example with an age restriction for children and young people.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland