What is it?

  • A ‘suite of legislation’ that effectively defines and legislates against all forms of child abuse and exploitation, including on and offline offences, trafficking and slavery.
  • Clear and consistent regulation to govern the detection and reporting of suspected CSEA online that removes any doubt or ambiguity over the deployment of targeted technical tools to assist in the identification and removal of child sexual exploitation material.
  • Consistent terminology, including common definitions and thresholds to facilitate the harmonisation of criminal offences, obtain evidence, hold the private sector accountable.
  • Legal confirmation that there are no spaces outside of the law: what is illegal offline should also be illegal online.  Harmonisation of legislation should cover substantive and procedural law to provide harmonised standards in adjudicating and investigating cybercrimes.

Why is it important?

  • Aligned national, regional and international legislation provides a common framework and sets norms for (global) citizens’ conduct and behaviour online.
  • Aligned national, regional and international legislation lays out the legal framework governing all actors (businesses, children, offenders, public), including responsibilities on reviewing, reporting, responding to and investigating reports.
  • Aligned national, regional and international legislation and legal frameworks, including extra-territorial legislation, bilateral agreements and joint investigations. This provides responders with the basis for cross-border collaboration to prevent child sex offenders concentrating in countries with weaker legislation and procedures.

How can it be implemented?

  • It is likely that a two-pronged approach will be necessary to ensure comprehensive cover: 1) Specific online or digital environment legislation will need to be developed or updated, and 2) key points relating to operating in a digital environment will need to be integrated into existing legislation.
  • Comprehensive national, regional and international legislation should be grounded in the UNCRC and prioritise safe and empowering internet access for its youngest users.
  • National, regional and international legislation should provide a clear set of online norms and behaviours, this includes regulations around reporting concerns or disclosures of abuse or offenders.
  • National, regional and international legislation should ensure that technology businesses and other industry partners meet their child (and human) rights responsibilities and are held to account where there are causes for concern or cases of abuse are disclosed. Legislation needs to ensure that businesses can maintain growth, cooperation and innovation.
  • Specific regulations must allow companies to proactively deter the upload of, identify and remove harmful images, videos, audio and text rapidly and on a large-scale from the internet.
  • Opportunities should be sought to expand existing international law, e.g. The Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as “the Lanzarote Convention”, to include more countries. Alternatively, new regional legislation should be developed in regions where no such conventions currently exist.
  • Legislation should provide for effective deterrence of potential offenders as well as effective, rapid responses to reports of abuse (or suspicions of abuse) and investigations where necessary. This includes in cases where there is no evidence that contact sexual abuse has taken place.
  • Special attention should be given to avoiding both intentional and unintentional criminalisation of victims and survivors of CSEA online.
  • It is important to balance and maintain standards of security, safety and privacy. This includes the need for clear lines on identifiable data protection, consent (including for children and considerations for parents / caregivers) and rules of confidentiality need to be clarified. Safeguards should be in place to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the use of technological tools to identify and remove Child Sexual Abuse Material.  In addition, detailed legislation should allow for access to particular identifiable data in cases where it is needed for a specific investigation purpose.

Further resources:

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Guidelines on combating child sexual exploitation