EU to take action against "cyberbullying" and "cybergrooming"
The third edition of the European Union's Safer Internet Programme will put a stronger focus on targeting cyberbullying and cybergrooming. Next to malicious and illegal content, the new program will also tackle problematic behaviour on the net, said Richard Swetenham of the Information Society and Media Directorate-General at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) in Strasbourg. The term "cyberbullying" is used by educators to describe aggressive attacks and bullying attempts on the web. "Cybergrooming" refers to attempts by adults to approach children and young people through the net, mostly with intent to abuse them sexually. Thirty-four per cent of the €55 million of funding for Safer Internet 2009 to 2013 favourably discussed by the EU parliament will be allocated for the area of illegal and harmful content, said Swetenham.
According to Swetenham, his colleagues in the Commission are currently also working to provide consistent punishment for cyberbullying and cybergrooming across the EU. So far, the necessary legislation has only been adopted by two EU member states, he said. EU commissioners think that the relevant articles on cyberbullying and cybergrooming should be raised to EU level by extending a Council framework decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.
The "online protection of children and young persons" was among the main topics discussed at the first EuroDIG held to prepare Europe's contribution at the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Hyderabad in December. Youth protection organisations and associations consider the protection of children and young persons on the internet one of Europe's central contributions at the IGF. Child protection topics were already discussed prominently at the second IGF in Rio de Janeiro.
At the EuroDIG, John Carr of the "Children's Charity Coalition on Internet Safety" called for a far greater number of companies to join the discussions. "We know that the banks have a lot to do at the moment, but they have to join discussions", said Carr. The same applies to online businesses who make it much easier for children to obtain alcohol or weapons, he said.
Meryem Marzouki, the president of the civil rights organisation IRIS (Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire), on the other hand, criticised that there are double standards in child protection. "I struggle with the varying understanding of children's need for protection", said Marzouki. Why is there an age limit of 18, for example in pornography, while on the other hand the data even of children can be collected and stored unchecked? "Then children cease to be children", said Marzouki. The French government's data collection projects ("Edvige" and "Kristina"), for example, already include children from the age of 13. The specific data protection requirements especially for children will be discussed at a European Council workshop in Hyderabad.