The EU Commission is planning a law that will override the right to confidential and encrypted communications for all 440 million people in the EU.
With the aim of better combating child abuse and child pornography, online services are to be forced by order to permanently search previously securely encrypted texts, images and video messages with the help of artificial intelligence for indications of “child pornography” or the “molestation of children by adults”. Suspicious cases are automatically forwarded to law enforcement.
No court needs to order this online search. It always happens automatically.
All hosting providers, all email providers, even encrypted messengers like WhatsApp, Threema or Signal fall under the law. But certainly also Tik Tok, Telegram and Instagram.
EU interior commissioner Ylva Johansson and commission chief Ursula von der Leyen are responsible for this totalitarian and monstrous draft law!
What makes the bill so totalitarian and monstrous?
(1) Child protectionists, law enforcement, human rights activists and IT experts agree that this type of total surveillance is inappropriate for stopping child abuse and child pornography.
(2) Families sharing e.g. vacation photos with children or teenagers simply flirting on the net (sexting) could be innocently suspected. This can lead to unfounded house searches and confiscation of mobile phones or PCs.
(3) Secure end-to-end encryption, as is guaranteed today in WhatsApp, Signal or Threema, for example, is an important digital protection tool. It guarantees that business secrets remain secret and that sensitive, private information can be exchanged securely between two people even in the digital world. The bill will eliminate secure end-to-end encryption in Europe.
(4) Europe-wide AI monitoring of all chat messages, once rolled out across the board, can prospectively search for other content as well. This would destroy the confidentiality in private communication forever.
(5) This proposal violates the fundamental rights of all EU citizens to respect for privacy, data protection and freedom of expression. It is not consistent with EU case law. It is already foreseeable that this law will be overturned by the European Court of Justice after it comes into force.
What alternatives are there to protect children from abuse?
In a statement on the EU draft law, the German Child Protection Association, for example, welcomes the EU’s initiative to prevent the digital dissemination of depictions of sexualized violence, but opposes the planned bill.
In the 16-page statement (please read), the Child Protection Association proposes a wide range of sensible measures and emphasizes that mass surveillance of private communications without any reason is particularly directed against children and young people.
Help to stop the chat control
Sign our online petition. I have started an online petition with over 100 other NGOs from all over Europe. It is addressed to the European Parliament in the hope to stop this madness in time. If you feel the same way, you can sign the petition here.
Stay informed. The best way to do that in German is via Netzpolitik.org. There is a well-done series of articles there on the subject and current developments.
Get involved. Join the EU-wide Stop Scanning Me] campaign.
Write again. With a letter to the EU Commission and the EU MEPs. Anonymus has prepared an English cover letter to the EU Commission there. Anyone can send it themselves. The required email addresses and telephone numbers of the Commission and all MEPs can also be found there.
Sources, tips and links for further reading
Netzpolitik.org – has a very good article “ Why chat control threatens fundamental rights ”. (German) They answer questions like “What does this mean for me?” or “How to combat child pornography effectively”.
In another article ” This is content that is beyond my imagination ,” Netzpolitik.org reports that a research team from ARD and NDR has found that every fourth picture in pedophile forums comes from Facebook or Instagram. (German Only) Parents, children or young people have posted seemingly harmless everyday photos there. A strong indication that the chat control will bring a lot of false positives.
The Chaos Computer Club – proves in a statement that messengers are unsuitable for the distribution of pedophile content and that criminals can easily avoid the planned scans.
The Society for Freedom Rights – explains why chat control is incompatible with fundamental rights.
At Patrick Breyer – a member of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party runs the information portal chatkontrolle.de . There you will find videos explaining how chat control will work, lots of background information and opinions from experts.
Erich Möcheln – reported for the first time on the Austrian radio FM4 in July 2020 about the planned chat control and the possible weakening of secure encryption. You can find his research here . (German only)
EDRi (a network of 45 NGOs working for digital freedom) – together with digitalcourage and Digitale Gesellschaft , has formulated a paper called Principles for the Protection of Children in the Digital World (PDF) . The statement of all EDRi NGOs to the EU Commission can be found here .
PS: Thanks to Markus Spiske for the cover picture.
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