FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353
March 25, 2021 

Cotton, Boozman, Murkowski Announce Resolution Urging European Union to Protect Children from Online Sexual Exploitation 

Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today announced they will reintroduce 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 manipulation of children.

“A world that turns a blind eye to child sexual exploitation has lost its way. This Directive allows undetected proliferation of online child exploitation at alarming rates. And because this material can’t be detected, reports of online child exploitation in the EU are down by 51 percent compared to the same period last year. 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.

“Abuse and exploitation of children anywhere is a tragedy that must be actively combated. The flawed EU Directive must be corrected swiftly in order to help crack down on the mistreatment of children online and root out those engaged in the practice now and in the future. This serious violation of young people’s privacy, innocence and dignity is urgently in need of rectifying and I am pleased to join Senators Cotton and Murkowski in calling for exactly that,” Boozman said.

“The European Union’s ePrivacy Directive creates unnecessary barriers in international efforts to combat Internet crimes against children. Their policy restricts the use of software that scans for child sexual abuse imagery—scanning that is largely responsible for collecting and reporting online child sexual abuse,” said Murkowski. “Our resolution urges the European Parliament to advance legislative changes that support efforts to eliminate online child predators. Protecting our children from online exploitation must be a top priority, but this can only be done in full if we work collaboratively at the global level to stop these horrific crimes.”

Background: 

  • 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, which took effect just before Christmas, made 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.
  • Since the Directive took effect, reports to the Cybertipline from the EU decreased by 51% during the 6-week period immediately following the Directive’s implementation, compared to the same period in 2020.
  • 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 still 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.

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