The European Union’s plan to combat child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on digital platforms is facing a major test and stirring up controversy. The proposed regulation would require platforms like Facebook, Telegram, and TikTok to detect and report any trace of CSAM on their systems and in private chats. The regulation relies on AI tools for detecting images, videos, and speech containing sexual abuse against minors. While some child welfare organizations welcome the regulation, privacy advocates and tech specialists argue that it could lead to a massive surveillance system and undermine end-to-end encryption.
The EU’s top data protection watchdog, Wojciech Wiewiorowski, has warned about the risks of mass surveillance and the fundamental changes the regulation could bring to the internet and digital communication. However, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson remains firm in her support for the proposal, emphasizing the need to protect children. The investigation reveals the connections between the key actors advocating for Johansson’s proposal, their financial backing, and their influence over EU policy.
Critics argue that if the regulation undermines encryption, it could introduce new vulnerabilities and potentially harm the very children it aims to protect. They question who will truly benefit from the legislation. Privacy assurances from advocacy groups and AI firms involved in the campaign are seen as “deeply misleading.” The involvement of Thorn, an organization that sells AI tools, and its links with EU officials have raised concerns about conflicts of interest and the influence of commercial interests in shaping EU policy.
In conclusion, the EU’s proposal to combat child sexual abuse material has sparked a contentious debate. While child welfare organizations support the regulation, privacy advocates and tech specialists raise concerns about mass surveillance and the potential harm to encryption. The involvement of advocacy groups and AI firms with financial backing has raised questions about their influence over EU policy-making. The outcome of the vote in the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament will be a crucial moment for the future of the regulation.