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Hojs backs closer cooperation in the fight against online child sexual abuse and the spread of extremist content

Today, the Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs, attended the seventh ministerial meeting of the EU Internet Forum, organised by the European Commission in cooperation with the internet industry.

As Minister Hojs said in his opening remarks, we as a society are increasingly vulnerable in the digital age, and this is particularly true of children and young people. While offering them a wide range of fun, useful and beneficial content, the internet also exposes children to new dangers. “Child sexual abuse, one of the most serious crimes because of the far-reaching consequences it has for victims, is a growing global phenomenon, which must be adequately addressed. Slovenia has been aware of the importance of addressing this area for a long time and has devoted considerable attention and effort to it,” said the Minister. This issue is one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, as international cooperation needs to be strengthened, especially in view of the limitlessness of the digital world and the challenges it poses for the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse. In November we organised the Ministerial Conference on the Prevention and Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse, where a joint statement was adopted.

“It is the digital aspect of this crime that requires special attention, given the rapid digitisation of society and the increased use of the internet, especially during the COVID-19 epidemic,” said Hojs. The digital aspect also increases the magnitude of this crime, as it allows for a faster dissemination of child sexual abuse material, increasing the demand for such material, but also leading to more difficult investigations and more complex identification of victims.

The Minister then turned his attention to violent extremist and terrorist activities, which also increasingly rely on modern technology: “Extremist and terrorist groups are moving most of their activities from the street to the web, taking advantage of new technological developments. This makes extremism and terrorism increasingly fragmented and unpredictable. The timely and effective detection is further complicated by encryption.” The Minister also highlighted the role of violent and extremist propaganda, disseminated on the internet: “I believe in a balanced proactive approach to detect and remove such content in a timely manner. In this context, a common EU approach is needed, together with strengthened public-private partnerships. With each new terrorist incident, we see how important it is to ensure a swift response to prevent the viral spread of terrorist content online. And for this we need an effective cooperation mechanism, which the EU Crisis Protocol can certainly provide.”

According to Hojs, the EU and the wider community have made significant progress in limiting these risks. In addition to awareness-raising at all levels, enhanced private-public cooperation and increasing the proactiveness of providers, EU Member States have developed a range of legislative and technical solutions to detect and remove such content. New manifestations, especially those using new technologies, require new approaches that are often beyond the capacities and capabilities of individual organisations or institutions, EU Member States and industry. “Working with internet companies and service providers is therefore key to ensuring online safety. The Internet Forum, which has been strengthening this cooperation for many years, has an important role to play. We are therefore pleased to support the expansion of the Forum's membership and welcome the new members at today's meeting (TikTok, Twitch, Yubo, Discord).”

The EU Internet Forum brings together EU home affairs ministers, the internet industry, Europol and other stakeholders, who work together on a voluntary basis to tackle the abuse and exploitation of the internet for the dissemination of child sexual abuse content and extremist and terrorist propaganda. Since its launch in December 2015, the EU Internet Forum has met annually to assess progress in removing terrorist content from the web and to discuss new challenges. In recent years, the EU Internet Forum has also focused on preventing and combating online child sexual abuse.