Blocking Child Porn Websites Is Not Sufficient, Say EU Reps

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Simply blocking websites may not be enough to combat child pornography, according to the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, which also said that such a measure would be difficult to implement across the European Union due to member states' differing sensitivities and traditions.

The committee discussed the progress of the proposed E.U. directive on sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography with Belgian justice minister Stefaan De Clerck late Monday evening. Parliamentarians expressed concern that removing websites was merely a 'cosmetic' exercise and that the emphasis should be put on prevention.

According to recent studies, between 10 percent and 20 percent of children in Europe are sexually assaulted during childhood. The aims of the proposed directive are to prevent anyone convicted of child abuse offenses in one country from getting a job with children in another member state, combating sex tourism and blocking access to Internet sites.

German member of Parliament Alexander Alvaro said that "blocking does not seem to be very efficient" and pointed out that asking the U.S. or Russia to remove websites could be problematic.

Last month, digital rights organization EDRI and the European ISP Association (EuroISPA), said that the European Commission's plan to take down child abuse websites represented a threat of "mission creep." The Commission's informal recommendation is to remove websites featuring child pornography, terrorism and racism.

EDRI and EuroISPA say they are alarmed that there is no obligation on public authorities to take responsibility for the enforcement process and to then investigate and prosecute the individuals behind the sites that are the subject of take-down notices. That could seriously compromise the fight against illegal content through the legitimate, established means of law enforcement, they say.

Italian member of Parliament Roberta Angelilli will present a draft report on the proposed directive in January 2011 and the committee vote should be taken in February. It will also be discussed as a priority item at the December meeting of the European Council.

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