Human Rights Day

Every year on 10 December, the world celebrates Human Rights Day, the very day when, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Protect Children works every day to promote the realisation of children’s fundamental rights, so that this right could one day become reality, all around the world. We do extensive awareness and advocacy work nationally and internationally. In 2021, we have given 10 statements on various topics pertaining to the realization of the rights of the child. Our work is strongly based on international human rights law and the Finnish Action Plan for Non-Violent Childhoods (2020-2025). 

Every single person has the fundamental right to grow up in a secure environment, free from violence and other inhumane treatment. Our organization’s primary goal is to protect all children from all forms of sexual violence.  

Every child has a right to information, education and protection, which is what our Online Road Safety project is based on. Protect Children produces and publishes free materials that teach children important skills to stay safe in all environments. In our advocacy work, we particularly highlight the importance of teaching children digital safety skills at an early stage, as despite the fact that children are born into a highly digitalized society, they still need the active presence and guidance of adults in their digital daily lives. Children also have the right to freely express their views and be heard, and child participation is a fundamental part of the Online Road Safety project. 

In addition to its positive impacts, the constant development of technology unfortunately also leads to greater challenges in preventing and combating sexual violence against children. The amount of child sexual abuse material distributed online has seen a significant increase. In our advocacy work, we have focused on the need for stronger consideration of the development of technology in the realisation of children’s rights. Legislation needs to be sustainable and future-proof so that the rights of the child can be safeguarded despite developments in technology. The aim of our ReDirection project (2020-2022) is to prevent online crimes of sexual violence against children, in particular the production, use and distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). We take a multi-pronged approach in the protection of children from sexual violence, focusing not only on potential child victims, but also on (potential) offenders, as is the case with the ReDirection project.  

We at Protect Children are strongly committed to supporting child victims and their families, and to bring forth their voices and wisdom, also in our advocacy work. In our statements, we have highlighted the rights of victims and families to compensation and appropriate psychological support and care. We arrange peer support groups for parents and guardians of children who have become victims of crimes of sexual violence. The strength of parents and guardians is fundamental in the recovery process of the child and of the entire family. 

At Protect Children we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that no child is subjected to sexual violence which is every child’s fundamental right.  

Communication from Protect Children regarding the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse

Read the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse

Through its ReDirection project, Protect Children aims to reach individuals who search for and view child sexual abuse material (CSAM) especially in the dark web. Protect Children adopts a public health approach in the prevention of sexual violence against children, and firmly believes that child protection efforts must be approached from multiple angles. The ReDirection project aims to act as a deterrent and a low-threshold intervention for individuals with an existing motivation to change their behavior to stop viewing CSAM.  

The global recognition Protect Children has received regarding the ReDirection project speaks volumes about its impact and innovative nature. Alongside far-reaching interest online, and in the media, the ReDirection project has been cited in a submission to the Australian Parliament, as well as in WeProtect Global Alliance’s recently published Global Threat Assessment 2021.[1] 

The ReDirection project contributes significantly to the fifth initiative set out in the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. The fifth initiative cites the “current lack of research [which] makes it difficult to draw up and put in place effective programmes at all stages”.[2] Protect Children has conducted unprecedented and groundbreaking research which has been called for by top experts in the field.[3]  

Protect Children has developed a new anonymous and rehabilitative ReDirection Self-Help Program for CSAM users.[4] The program has been developed on the basis of the responses provided by the respondents through the Help us to help you survey, as well as the manualized NEW DIRECTION – Personal Rehabilitation Programme®.[5] 

The fifth initiative of the EU’s Strategy goes on to state: “[t]he few [prevention] programmes that are in place are rarely evaluated to assess their effectiveness”.[6] Protect Children’s ReDirection Self-Help Program will go through thorough evaluation and will continue to be evaluated, developed and updated. Protect Children’s aim is to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions in the prevention of sexual violence against children. The ReDirection Self-Help Program offers a focused and innovative prevention and intervention method. 

Anonymous dark web research on non-convicted CSAM users reveals that 37% of individuals who viewed CSAM had also sought direct contact with a child after viewing the material.[7] Moreover, 44% of respondents stated: “they have, at least once, thought about seeking direct contact with children through online platforms”.[8] This “indicate[s] a significant correlation between [CSAM use and direct offending]”.[9Therefore, and as highlighted in the eighth and final initiative, existing CSAM must be removed as effectively as possible. As stated by Insoll, Ovaska, and Vaaranen-Valkonen: “[…] it is of paramount importance to remove detected CSAM from the web. This requires coordinated effort from all relevant parties, including internet service providers, social media platforms, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and researchers”.[10] They also underline the gargantuan scale of the problem, recognizing the unfeasibility of merely relying on individual reports made to LEA, NGOs, hotlines, and so on. “Due to the vast volumes of CSAM already in existence online, advanced technological solutions are urgently required to identify, report and remove such content”.[11] 

Protect Children is committed to fulfilling the aims laid out in the EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. 
 

Protect Children’s two-year ReDirection project is funded by End Violence Against Children

[1] See: Harriet Grant, ’Online child abuse survey finds third of viewers attempt contact with children’ (The Guardian, 27 September 2021); YLE, ’”I don’t know how to stop”: Finnish initiative offers self-help for people viewing sexually exploitative images of children’ (YLE News, 27 September 2021; Broadhurst R & Ball M, ’Tor’s underworld, ‘onion services’ and child sex abuse material: Submission to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into ‘Law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation’ (21 September 2021); WeProtect Global Alliance, Global Threat Assessment 2021.  

[2] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, p 9. 

[3] Seto MC, Hanson RK, Babchishin KM, Contact sexual offending by men with online sexual offenses Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 23(1) 124–145 (2011) p 139. 

[4] ReDirection Self-Help Program. The Program is also available through the TOR browser.  

[5] Research report concluding the dark web research findings: Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021); Nina Nurminen, NEW DIRECTION – Personal Rehabilitation Programme® (2014, Nina Nurminen, Criminal Sanctions Agency).  

[6] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse, p 9. 

[7] Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021), p. 41.

[8] Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021), p. 40.

[9] Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021), p. 18.

[10] Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021), p. 18.

[11] Insoll T, Ovaska A & Vaaranen-Valkonen N, CSAM Users in the Dark Web: Protecting Children Through Prevention (Suojellaan Lapsia ry. ReDirection Survey Report 2021), p. 18.

Lapsen oikeuksien viikko – Suojellaan lapsia ja edistetään lasten oikeuksien toteutumista yhdessä!

Tällä viikolla vietetään lapsen oikeuksien viikkoa. Lapsen oikeuksien toteutuminen on meidän jokaisen vastuulla. Suojellaan Lapsia ry tekee vaikuttamistyötä kansallisesti ja kansainvälisesti. Edistääksemme lasten oikeuksia ja lapsen edun ensisijaisuutta olemme lausuneet tänä vuonna yhdeksän laajaa lausuntoa. Työmme pohjautuu vahvasti kansainvälisiin lapsen oikeuksien sopimuksiin sekä kansalliseen Väkivallaton lapsuus (2020-2025) toimenpidesuunnitelmaan. 

Lapsilla on oikeus tietoon ja opastukseen (LOS Artikla 17). Olemme koonneet aineistopankkiimme merkittävän määrän maksuttomasti ladattavia lapsia opastavia materiaaleja mm. lapsille tärkeitä tunne- ja turvataitoja opettavia lastenkirjoja. Kuvaohjelmalain muutostarpeista antamassamme lausunnossa (01/2021) painotimme lapsen oikeutta ikä- ja kehitystasonsa mukaiseen tietoon. Lasten oikeus tulisi huomioida erityisesti, kun arvioidaan lasten turvallisuuden kannalta olennaista tietoa sisältävää materiaalia. Myös tehokkaampi ikärajojen valvonta erityisesti digitaalisten ympäristöjen osalta turvaa lasten oikeuksien toteutumisen kaikissa ympäristöissä.  

Oikeus tietoon, opastukseen ja suojeluun ulottuu myös digiympäristöihin (General Comment no. 25)  

Lasten arki on jo varhain digitalisoitunutta mutta heidän aivonsa eivät ole tehneet digiloikkaa. Lapset tarvitsevatkin ennen kaikkea aikuisten läsnäoloa ja ohjeistusta digiarjessaan. Kansallisen lapsistrategian toimeenpanosuunnitelmasta antamassamme lausunnossa (06/2021) painotimme lapsen oikeutta digiturvataitokasvatukseen jo varhaisessa vaiheessa. Turvallisesti Digiliikenteessä projektissamme olemme tuottaneet maksutonta digiturvataitomateriaalia niin koteihin kuin kouluihin. Kaikki materiaalit on suunnattu alkaen 5-vuotiaista lapsista 9-vuotiaisiin. Lapsilla on myös oikeus tulla kuuluiksi (LOS Artikla 12), ja lasten osallistaminen onkin keskeinen osa Turvallisesti Digiliikenteessä projektia.

Lapsilla on oikeus suojeluun kaikilta seksuaaliväkivallan muodoilta (LOS Artikla 34 & 35).   

Yhdistyksemme ensisijainen tavoite on , ettei yksikään lapsi joutuisi seksuaalirikoksen kohteeksi. Teknologian jatkuva kehitys mahdollistaa valitettavasti kaiken hyvän lisäksi myös sen, että lapsiin kohdistuvia seksuaalirikoksia on yhä vaikeampi estää ja torjua. Myös seksuaaliväkivaltaa todistavan kuvamateriaalin (CSAM) levittämisen verkossa on merkittävästi lisääntynyt (Global Threat Assessment 2021) ja olemme ottaneet vahvasti kantaa lasten suojelemiseksi verkkovälitteisiltä seksuaalirikoksilta. Euroopan komissiolle antamassamme lausunnossa (04/2021) keskitymme painottamaan teknologian vahvempaan huomioimiseen lasten oikeuksien toteutumisessa. Painotimme myös tarvetta kestävään lainsäädäntöön, joka varmistaa lasten suojelun huolimatta teknologian nopeasta kehityksestä. ReDirection (2020-2022) projektimme tavoitteena on ennaltaehkäistä lapsiin kohdistuvia verkkovälitteisiä seksuaalirikoksia, erityisesti laittoman child sexual abuse material (CSAM) kuvamateriaalin tuottamista, käyttöä ja jakamista. Julkaisimme (09/2021) merkittävän tutkimusraportin pimeän verkon laittoman CSA kuvamateriaalin käyttäjistä sekä uuden anonyymin ReDirection -omahoito-ohjelman CSAM käyttäjille.

Loppuvuodesta antamamme lausunnot (09/10/2021) Suomen rikosvahinkolain sekä EU:n rikosuhridirektiivin muutostarpeista painottivat erityisesti lapsiuhrien oikeutta korvauksiin ja matalan kynnyksen psykososiaaliseen tukeen (LOS artikla 39). Painotimme myös tarvetta asettaa lapsen etu ensisijaiseksi lainsäädännössä (LOS Artikla 3 Kohta 1) Järjestämme vertaistuellista toimintaa vanhemmille ja huoltajille, joiden lapsi on joutunut seksuaalirikoksen kohteeksi. Työssämme korostuu huoltajien ja vanhempien jaksamisen ensisijaisuus lapsen ja koko perheen toipumisessa. Lausunnoissamme tuomme vahvasti esiin lapsiuhrin perheiden oikeuden tukeen ja korvauksiin.  

Suojellaan lapsia ja edistetään lasten oikeuksien toteutumista yhdessä!  

Supporting victims of crime in the EU – evaluation of the Victims’ Rights Directive

Protect Children gave a consultation to the European Commission on evaluating the Victims’ Rights Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU). In the consultation, Protect Children particularly highlighted the need to consider the unique needs of child victims of crimes of sexual violence, in particular those cases where child sexual abuse material (CSAM) has been recorded as a part of the abuse.

All forms of sexual violence are extremely harmful and traumatizing to the victim, and the adverse psychological impacts can be long-lasting or permanent. Child victims must thus be able to easily access the appropriate psychological support and care (e.g. TF-CBT). Victims whose abuse has been documented in the form of CSAM risk being revictimized for years following their initial abuse as the material is redistributed online, leading to a potential need for prolonged support. This must be taken into consideration in view of compensation. Victims of crimes of sexual violence must be able to access psychological support and compensation also at later stages in life, as symptoms may present themselves even years after the initial abuse.

Protect Children strongly believes that sexual violence against a child is violence against the entire family. We have learned from organizing peer support groups for parents whose child has become the victim of a crime of sexual violence how fundamentally important it is that parents have access to psychological support and care. Therefore, we strongly encouraged the extension of the definition of victims of crime to also cover family members and caregivers. As the Directive does not currently mandate support to family members of victims, except in cases resulting in death, there are insufficient support systems for parents of child victims. It is absolutely crucial that the caregivers of the child victim receive support so that they, in turn, are able to support the child in their lengthy recovery process.

In its statement, Protect Children also highlighted the need for setting maximum time limits for criminal proceedings in crimes of sexual violence against children. The current legal framework allows criminal proceedings to be very lengthy, going against the best interests of the child victim.

Protect Children presentation at ERA Conference: ’Preventing Child Sexual Abuse’

On 21-22 October 2021, Protect Children specialists attended and presented at the Academy of European Law (ERA) Conference: ’Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Role of law enforcement agencies and the internet industry’ in Tallinn.  

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director; Anna Ovaska, Legal Specialist; and Tegan Insoll, Project Researcher, presented the findings from the recently published research on the use of child sexual abuse materials on the dark web – sharing findings and recommendations for future work and research. 

Read the full research report on the findings from Protect Children’s dark web research on users of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM).

The key topics of the conference included: 

  • European and international legal instruments to fight child sex abuse material  
  • Measures against advertising abuse opportunities and sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism  
  • Preventive intervention programmes or measures  
  • Intervention programmes or measures on a voluntary basis in the course of or after criminal proceedings 

The seminar aimed to assess and debate legal measures to prevent and combat the production, processing, possession and distribution of child sexual abuse material on the internet. Particular emphasis was placed on the dialogue between law enforcement agencies and the internet industry. 

Thank you to ERA and the Estonian Prosecutor’s Office for inviting Protect Children to join this important event.  

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director, Senior Specialist; Anna Ovaska, Legal Specialist & Tegan Insoll, Project Researcher, at ERA Conference, Tallinn.

Restoring justice for victims of abuse in Europe – Protect Children joins the Justice Initiative

The recently published report revealing widespread abuse within the Catholic church in France with 330 000 estimated victims of child sexual abuse, has been widely noted in media. The cases of abuse are recorded to have occurred since the 1950’s, meaning that tens of thousands of victims have experienced injustice for decades as their abuse has been covered and their voices silenced, never receiving recognition nor compensation for their extensive suffering. While criticizing the Catholic church we are not criticizing the faith – extensive abuse perpetrated and covered up by large institutions is happening all around us. All closed communities increase the risk of child sexual abuse and we must hold accountable those responsible and ensure justice to their victims.

Pictured: Guido Flori and Protect Children’s ED Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen

At an international meeting held in Switzerland, likeminded groups representing victims from all over Europe initiated a comprehensive, large-scale Justice Initiative, with a mission to restore justice for victims of abuse in Europe. Through this political initiative, the abuse and sexual violence of children, especially at the hands of governments and churches is being comprehensively brought forward for the first time throughout Europe. A motion to bring the processing of abuse cases up to a pan-European level will be submitted to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, based on four central demands:

  1. Truth about child abuses – Discovering and revealing the truth about child abuses
  2. Official recognition – The official recognition of children who suffered from any kind of sexual, physical and psychological violence
  3. Reparation – Providing official reparation of children who suffered from any kind of sexual, physical and psychological violence
  4. Prevention – ensuring that legislations and individual countries focus on protecting all children and strengthening preventive work

Europe has been violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for decades: hundreds of thousands of children have become victims of abuse and sexual violence. The most heinous forms of abuse have occurred in establishments led by the government or the church. In many cases around Europe, government officials have been partially responsible for the suffering or they have not been capable of protecting children from abuse and human rights violations. In the majority of European countries, past cases of abuse and sexual violence have not been processed, precisely as in the now revealed case of the Catholic church in France, and this must be changed.

The goal is to break the silence and bring forth the truth about abuse and sexual violence against children and other heinous violations of the rights of the child” says Protect Children’s Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen.

Protect Children stands by all victims of abuse and sexual violence, and will always continue to fight to bring forth the voices of victims and survivors. We deeply respect each person who breaks the silence and has the courage to speak up about the abuse they have experienced. We also support and defend parents and guardians whose child has become victim of a sexual crime through our peer-support groups, and strongly believe that sexual violence against a child is violence toward the entire family. The voices of victims of abuse and sexual violence have been silenced for too long – we must work together to break the silence and end the cycle of abuse.

Read more about the Justice Initiative – European response to child abuse cases here.

Suojellaan Lapsia ry. lausui rikosvahinkolain muutostarpeista

Suojellaan Lapsia ry. korosti antamassaan lausunnossa erityisesti seksuaaliväkivallan lapsiuhrien sekä CSAM- rikosten uhrien sekä uhrien läheisten oikeuksia riittäviin korvauksiin.

Lapsena koettu seksuaaliväkivalta on väkivaltaa koko perhettä kohtaan. Siksi haluammekin painottaa, että alaikäisen seksuaalirikoksen uhrin kohdalla hoitoa ja tukea tarvitsee koko perhe. Seksuaalirikoksen uhriksi joutuneen lapsen on tärkeää saada tutkittuun näyttöön pohjautuvia hoitoja ja psykoterapiaa (mm. TF-CBT, yms.) matalalla kynnyksellä.

Seksuaaliväkivalta voi aiheuttaa pitkäkestoista ja pysyvää haittaa uhrille. Seksuaalirikokset, joista on tallennettu kuvamateriaalia (CSAM) asettavat uhrin toistuvasti uhrin asemaan materiaalin kiertäessä verkossa. Uhrista tallennetun kuvamateriaalin levitys verkkoympäristöihin ja tietoisuus sen uudelleen käytöstä aikuisen seksuaaliseen tyydytykseen on omiaan lisäämään CSAM- rikosten erityistä haitallisuutta ja pitkittynyttä hoidon tarvetta.

Suojellaan Lapsia ry painottaa, että seksuaalirikoksen uhriksi joutuneella henkilöllä tulee olla oikeus saada tukea ja hoitoa myös myöhemmin elämässään, sillä oireilu voi ilmetä vasta myöhemmin, vuosia tapahtuneen jälkeen. Rikosvahinkolain tulee huomioida seksuaalirikoksissa ilmenevä mahdollinen myöhempi hoidon tarve.

Lue lausunto täältä.

Privacy rights and child protection – the case of Apple

Update: Since publishing this article, on September 3rd 2021 Apple announced that they would be pausing the implementation of the planned child safety features discussed below. We are deeply disappointed in this announcement, especially as it comes without a clear indication of its extents and details. We at Protect Children will continue to fight to ensure the best interests of children in all environments. Privacy rights and the protection of children from abuse and exploitation must and can co-exist in balance. The arguments in regards to the balance between privacy rights and child protection efforts presented in the article remain extremely relevant.

Read LL.M candidate Matilda Sandvik’s article (published prior to Apple’s announcement to pause the measures) below.

Apple’s new child safety measures, released in August and made available currently only in the United States, include 3 significant measures for global child protection; client-side CSAM detection, communications safety in iMessages and a function for expanded guidance to help-sources for persons searching for CSAM related topics.  

Apple has taken significant and highly technologically sophisticated measures to ensure that the highest level possible of privacy can be offered while still being able to detect CSAM and prevent child sexual abuse, also offering an extremely small error rate of one in one trillion in the CSAM detection technology.  Nevertheless, the new features have been met with reactions ranging from concerns to anger, to a large extent on the privacy rights advocate side. Conspiracy theories range from Apple handing over the technology to authoritarian states where it will wreak havoc, to Apple using child safety as a cover with their real intent being to surveil on their users.  

Now, regarding the client-side CSAM detection (which seems to be the feature under hottest fire), it is noteworthy that perpetual hashing is not something new. What Apple is proposing is not unprecedented. Content on various, commonly used platforms has been analyzed in similar manners for more than a decade. Such widespread concerns for malicious use of these technologies have, however, not been presented. And to clear up a common misconception brought up in the media; this function does not allow Apple to manually analyze content to recognize nudity and then check to see if the image contains child sexual abuse. Images are only matched against already known hashes from third parties, and Apple can only access the material once a certain threshold is exceeded.  

As those of us who work in the field of child protection know, and as becomes painfully clear in our daily work, the spread of CSAM is a very real, and widespread problem globally. We also know that an increasing number of images originate from children’s own devices – extremely relevant in view of the communications safety feature. As technology has continued to develop, so has an increase in the spread of illegal material. Technology, while the catalyst for the problem, can and must be a principal component in the battle against it. Without the involvement of the tech sector, the battle will be lost. Apple’s new measures set a crucial precedent for other companies to join the battle and better protect children online. 

Privacy rights advocates ought to remember that CSAM detection is not fundamentally against privacy, on the contrary, it is the only way to ensure and advance the privacy rights of child victims portrayed in imagery. Additionally, amid all the criticism, I have so far not seen any alternative suggestions proposed. And no, a solution where tech-companies are no longer allowed to detect or scan their platforms for CSAM or other harmful material is not an option: this would also go against the very foundations of human rights law. At Protect Children, we promote all rights of children, and recognize privacy rights as fundamental. However, due to the indivisibility of human rights, we cannot allow privacy rights, although fundamental, to take precedence. 

The discussions regarding CSAM detection and its impact on privacy rights have for too long been severely polarized, and polarized discussions do not serve the best interests of any stakeholder.  On the other hand, it is important for child rights advocates to be open to listening to privacy concerns, as they are not without any foundation. The only way to move forward is through finding a compromise, and companies such as Apple who are attempting to create technologies that could respect the wishes of both sides should be applauded. Flaws can, and should, be noted without the need to completely shoot down the entire idea. All stakeholders must consider that a solution which completely satisfies all wishes of everyone involved does not exist, but that does not mean that we should give up on finding the next best option. 

Matilda Sandvik, LL.M candidate, Project Employee

matilda.sandvik(at)protectchildren.fi

Matilda is finalizing her LL.M studies in international law, specializing in human rights.

Merkittävä lakimuutos astuu voimaan

Suojellaan Lapsia ry. lausui lasten ja nuorten kanssa työskentelevien henkilöiden rikostaustan selvittämistä koskevan lain muuttamisesta. Merkittävä muutos lakiin astuu voimaan tänään, 1.8.2021.

Ennen tämänpäiväistä lakimuutosta, työnantajalla ei ole ollut oikeutta tarkastaa lasten kanssa lyhytaikaisesti työskentelevän henkilön rikostaustaa. Uusi lakimuutos ei toki velvoita työnantajaa tarkastamaan rikostaustaa alle kolmen kuukauden mittaisissa työsuhteissa, mutta oikeuttaa tähän. ”Lakimuutos on todella merkittävä” toteaa Suojellaan Lapsia ry:n lainopillinen asiantuntija Anna Ovaska. ”Uudistus vahvistaa lasten ja nuorten oikeuksien toteutumista ja vastaa myös paremmin Suomea velvoittavia kansainvälisiä lasten oikeuksien sopimuksia” Ovaska muistuttaa.  

Työsuhteen keston ei tulisi vaikuttaa taustaselvityksen tarpeellisuuteen. ”Työntekijän ja lapsen välille saattaa muodostua luottamussuhde hyvinkin lyhyessä ajassa, jolloin myös lyhyt työsuhde saattaa sisältää riskin lapseen kohdistuvaan rikokseen” Suojellaan Lapsia ry:n toiminnanjohtaja, erityisasiantuntija, psykoterapeutti Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen painottaa. 

Suojellaan Lapsia ry:n asiantuntijat jatkavat vahvaa vaikuttamistyötä lasten oikeuksien puolestapuhujina. ”Jatkuva vahva työmme lasten oikeuksien toteutumiseksi tuottaa konkreettisia tuloksia” Vaaranen-Valkonen iloitsee.  

We must find a balance between privacy rights and the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Privacy rights are among the most traditional human rights, but discussions around them have never been as relevant for the best interests of children as they are right now. It has become evident that there is a significant lack in the balance between privacy rights and the fundamental rights of children to be safe from abuse and exploitation, as well as a gap in the research and in the understanding on how to reach such a balance.

Since the ePrivacy Directive amendments in December 2020, NCMEC reported a 58% decrease in abuse reports made by companies in the 18- week period following the adoption of the Directive. Following extensive advocacy work by child rights stakeholders, the European Commission recently accepted a temporary 3-year derogation to the Directive, which allows Online Service Providers (OSPs) to continue their activities to detect and report child sexual abuse online and remove CSAM on their services, albeit with strict limitations. All of this is occurring while end-to-end encryption, another technology which could severely limit the possibility to detect child sexual abuse, is gaining popularity among OSPs. Privacy rights advocates are, to a large extent, opposing any limitations to the technology, fearing implications on the privacy rights of society as a whole.

So, what can be done? It is evident that the only way to reach a solution accepted by all parties is through multi-stakeholder dialogue, which must not be polarized, but rather should be held in a constructive manner where the goal is to find the balance which we crucially need. When it comes to legislation, it must be future proof, so as to avoid such scenarios that we encountered earlier this past year, with decisions being made considering the best interests of children.

Importantly, we need more discussion and awareness regarding the use of end-to-end encryption, and how to regulate it. Otherwise, the efforts ensuring the possibility for OSPs to detect and report online child sexual abuse will be in vain if the same companies begin offering extensive encryption technology, which will make the detection nearly impossible. For example, PhotoDNA, one of the more commonly used detection technologies by OSPs, is not usable on end-to-end encrypted content. I do not mean to downplay the importance of privacy rights in our society, as also privacy rights pertain to children’s fundamental rights. It is, however, crucial that we remember that the indivisibility of human rights means that we cannot let privacy rights take priority over the protection of vulnerable children. A scenario where OSPs are no longer able, or willing, to detect and report child sexual abuse on their platforms is unacceptable.

The European Union has become the center of the problem, hosting more child sexual abuse material than any other region in the world. And while the temporary derogation to the ePrivacy directive is a step in the right direction and something to celebrate, we must bear in mind that it is indeed temporary. The recent development, and the risk posed by the increase in full end-to-end encryption, demonstrate that filling the existing gap in the balance between privacy rights and the protection of children is of paramount importance, with the temporary derogation now placing a tight timeframe for success. Without it, we risk creating a safe haven for child sexual abusers in the EU, and consequently risk failing the protection of children globally.

Matilda Sandvik

Project employee, Protect Children, LL.M candidate in international law specializing in human rights

matilda.sandvik(a)protectchildren.fi