The Malta Independent 20 April 2024, Saturday
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MEP Alex Agius Saliba addresses 6th edition of Politico Europe Tech Summit

Saturday, 29 April 2023, 12:54 Last update: about 13 months ago

MEP Alex Agius Saliba has addressed the POLITICO 6th edition of the Europe Tech Summit on the Commission's controversial proposal to fight online child sexual abuse.

The Tech Summit provides a chance to debate a variety of important digital topics, with high-level speakers, including leading policymakers, industry innovators, and civil society actors participating in key discussions on the future of European tech and policies.

During the summit, Agius Saliba participated in a roundtable on Protecting Children Online. As rapporteur for the internal market and consumer protection Committee opinion, he was invited to share his position and expertise on the Commission's recent proposal to fight child sexual abuse online. 

The Commission proposal was put forward in May 2022 as part of a broader package on children's rights, and since then has attracted much attention and criticism from privacy advocates over its potential impact on encrypted services and inclusion of a provision that can lead to generalized scanning obligation for messaging services, with critics fearing mass surveillance of all citizens.

Agius Saliba commented that Child Sexual Abuse is a heinous crime that leaves lifelong scars on its victims, causing long-lasting physical and emotional harm, and actions in this area are definitely needed. The rise of digital technology has facilitated the spread of child sexual abuse material online, making it easier for predators to groom and manipulate children online.

"Fight against child sexual abuse online is a must, and No one questions that! The proposal of the Commission is very polarising, and there are many different positions. The question is to find the right balance between protecting children and safeguarding the fundamental rights of law-abiding citizens and users." commented MEP Agius Saliba after the roundtable.

Agius Saliba explained that the Commission proposal has very controversial points on privacy, disproportionality, and whether this legislation would benefit children or, to the contrary, will overwhelm law enforcement authorities and slow down investigations. " Currently, as the proposal stands, it implies pervasive and intrusive scanning and spying of audio communications services of all citizens. This is first not technically possible or second proportionate for traditional communication services, which are also not meant to disseminate visual content."

"We need effective measures and actions to combat this crime and protect the rights and freedoms of all children online and law-abiding citizens. And unless we consider a holistic approach where children are part of the solution, technology alone will not solve the problem," said the MEP.

 

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