FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 734-0430
December 3, 2020
Cotton Announces Resolution Urging European Union to Protect Children from Online Sexual Exploitation
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today announced he will introduce a resolution urging the European Union to amend its ePrivacy Directive to assure tech companies may continue to use technology that identifies and combats child exploitation online. In its current form, the ePrivacy Directive outlaws critical tools used to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
“A world that turns a blind eye to child sexual exploitation has lost its way. This Directive, as written, will allow undetected proliferation of online child exploitation at alarming rates. But the EU can still fix it. My resolution will urge the European Parliament to pass critical changes that prioritize our children’s safety. Closing our eyes to child exploitation doesn’t mean it stops—we must fight this evil together,” said Cotton.
- Several tech companies voluntarily use certain technologies—including hashing, PhotoDNA, and anti-grooming tools—to detect child sexual abuse material and grooming behavior on their platforms.
- These technologies identify millions of instances of child exploitation online, which are then reported to the CyberTipline, a global hotline for online child exploitation operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In 2019 alone, the CyberTipline received reports of 69 million images, videos, and files related to child sexual abuse, and more than 3 million of these images and videos originated from offenders in the EU.
- The ePrivacy Directive, set to take effect just before Christmas, would make it illegal for tech companies to use this technology in the EU. In its current form, this Directive threatens our ability to protect children from online exploitation—not just in the EU, but globally.
- The European Commission recently noted that the EU “has become the largest host of child sexual abuse material globally.” If this problem goes unaddressed, internet predators in the EU will abuse children all over the world, including freely trading illegal images of American children without consequences.
- It is unclear whether tech companies will continue to use these technologies in other countries if forced to exclude users in the EU, a devastating blow to child safety everywhere.