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Critics slam EU decision to scan private messages to ‘protect children’

Critics have slammed a new European Commission plan to monitor private online communications in the name of protecting children from abuse, saying the move amounts to mass surveillance of Europeans.

The European Commission’s ‘Better Internet for Kids’ plan was announced on Wednesday and aims to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to detect, report and remove illegal content depicting child sexual abuse, as well as to actively monitor private messaging, including encrypted messages.

While many companies, such as Apple, have long refused to allow government access to their encryption services, the Commission argued that “if these services were to be exempted from child protection requirements and take measures against the circulation of child sexual abuse images and videos through their services, the consequences would be serious for children,” reports Euronews.

The project will be run by a new European Center on Child Abuse, which will enforce the measures, as EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told a press conference on Wednesday: “We are failing to protect children today”.

While proposals to automatically read encrypted private messages from Europeans are being touted as essential to protecting children, some fear the potential for abuse of power goes far beyond that. Tom JP Vandendriessche, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the right-wing Eurosceptic Belgian party Vlaams Belang, criticized the Commission’s proposal, telling Breitbart London: “Chat control is a violation of several fundamental rights. Not only the right to freedom of expression, but also the right to privacy. Yet another example of how the European Commission tries to spy on citizens, suppress civil rights and deprive ordinary citizens of their rights. ”

“Totalitarian tools and their love of mass surveillance are spreading through European institutions like a virus. It is actually a China Virus 2.0. Mortal for our freedom and our democracy,” he added.

Privacy experts were equally critical of the proposal, including Jan Penfrat of digital rights group European Digital Rights (EDRi), who said: “It looks like a law of disgraceful general surveillance totally unsuited to any free democracy”.

The proposal would see the EU issue ‘detection orders’ to services such as Whatsapp, Signal, Facebook Messenger and others, which would require companies to scan users’ private messages for abusive content and messages. that I would consider sexual or destination. child grooming.

However, according to Ella Jakubowska, an adviser to EDRi, it is unclear whether detection orders should be targeted, saying: “It completely leaves the door open for much more widespread surveillance.”

Joe Mullin, senior policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was also critical: “There is no way to do what the EU proposal seeks to do, except that the governments read and analyze user messages on a large scale.

“If it becomes law, the proposal would be a disaster for the privacy of users not only in the EU but around the world,” he added.

The European Union, as well as several member states within it, have long tried to regulate internet speech, especially hate speech, and social media companies have been threatened with heavy fines for failing to remove illegal content. in the past.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or by e-mail at ctomlinson(at)


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