Google, Meta Must Find And Remove Child Pornography Online Under Draft EU Rules

BRUSSELS, May 11 (Reuters) – Google (GOOGL.O)meta (FB.O) and other online service providers will be required to find and remove child pornography online under rules proposed by the European Commission , a move that some privacy groups say could put people’s communications at risk.

Companies that fail to comply with the rules face fines of up to 6% of their annual income or global turnover, which will be set by EU countries.

The EU executive said its proposal announced on Wednesday aims to replace the current system of voluntary detection and reporting by companies, which has proven insufficient to protect children.

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He cited the more than one million reports of child sexual abuse in the bloc from 27 countries in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a factor in the 64% increase in such reports in 2021 compared to the previous year. In addition, 60% of child pornography worldwide is hosted on EU servers.

“The proposed rules introduce an obligation for relevant online service providers to assess the risk of misuse of their services for the dissemination of child pornography or for the solicitation of children (grooming),” the Commission said in a statement.

Companies will then need to flag and remove known and new images and videos, as well as grooming cases. An EU Child Sexual Abuse Center will be set up to act as a center of expertise and to forward reports to the police.

The rules will apply to hosting services and interpersonal communication services such as email services, app stores and internet service providers.

The Commission’s proposal could endanger end-to-end encryption and open the door to heavy-handed surveillance tactics, said lobby group European Digital Rights.

The Meta WhatsApp subsidiary echoed the same concerns.

“Incredibly disappointing to see that a proposed EU internet regulation fails to protect end-to-end encryption,” WhatsApp head Will Cathcart said in a tweet.

“It is important that any measures adopted do not undermine the end-to-end encryption that protects the security and privacy of billions of people, including children,” a Meta spokesperson said.

Draft EU rules must be discussed with EU countries and EU lawmakers before they can become law.

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Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout
Edited by John Stonestreet and Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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