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EU drops vote on child sex abuse law – Politico

The controversial regulation would allow citizens’ encrypted messages to be scanned, and has faced considerable opposition

Belgium’s EU presidency postponed a vote on a controversial law relating to child sex abuse on Thursday amid concerns from some member states that it would violate people’s privacy, Politico has reported.

EU diplomats told the outlet that the vote to amend a draft law that would require highly secure apps like WhatsApp and Signal to scan users’ encrypted messages for potential child sex abuse material had been removed from the agenda.

Ambassadors in the EU Council were scheduled to decide whether to back a joint position on the regulation. However, “in the last hours, it appeared that the required qualified majority would just not be met,” an unnamed EU diplomat from the Belgian presidency told Politico.

Many member states including Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic were reportedly expected to abstain or oppose the law over cybersecurity and privacy concerns.

German Minister of Internal Affairs Nancy Faeser wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday evening that she would vote against the proposal. Protecting children against sexual violence was necessary but had to be “targeted and within the rule of law,” she wrote.

Ireland and Spain have called for a strong law to monitor online content amid a spike in child sex abuse material.

Proposed in 2022, the draft law has attracted considerable controversy, particularly among digital rights activists, for potentially forcing messaging apps to conduct mass online surveillance in a bid to find and report child abuse material. Privacy groups have reportedly denounced the law as effectively breaking end-to-end encrypted messaging.

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Under the proposed plan, seen by Politico, messaging apps would scan pictures and links when people upload them via their services. Users would be informed of this in their terms and conditions. Those who refuse to accept the rules would be blocked from sending pictures and links.

The draft proposal, however, exempted “accounts used by the state for national security purposes.”

According to the report, the EU countries’ agreement on a joint position would clear the way for negotiations with the European Parliament on a final version of the law.

In July, Hungary will take over the rotating EU council presidency from Belgium, along with the initiative to restart negotiations on the child abuse issue. Budapest said it would work “on developing a long-term legislative solution to prevent and combat online child sexual abuse” when representing the priorities of its presidency. However, one diplomat reportedly told the EUobserver that they expected Hungary would not continue with the current proposal.

June 21, 2024 at 08:48PM
RT

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