14 May 2009
EESC and stakeholders in call for stronger co-operation on internet safety for children
I ncreased international cooperation and coordinated partnerships to make the internet a safer place for young people and especially children were vigorously and unanimously requested by a panel of 15 distinguished speakers, including two young prize winners from Romania, at a conference organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) o n 5 May 2009, which brought together about 100 participants.
Protecting children from har mful content and conduct online and curbing the distribution of illegal content were some of the issues discussed by experts and stakeholders at the EESC conference. In particular, they discussed challenges that remain to be addressed at the political, regulatory and law enforcement level, as well as from the technological, business and social perspectives.
On the part of the EESC, Georges DASSIS (President of the EESC's Group II, "Employees") expressed determination to press ahead with the issue: " children's abuse must be decisively fought in both the information society and the real one. The EESC confirms its commitment in making the internet a safer place for our children by promoting international co-operation in this field ".
Christine KORMANN (European Commission, DG Information Society & Media) presented the European Commission's on-going 'Safer Internet' Programme, an initiative seen as a robust example of international policy co-ordination now in its 2009-2013 period of implementation.
At the international regulatory level , the Conventions on Cybercrime and on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation were presented by Christina SCHULMAN (Council of Europe, Economic Crime Division). However, as was pointed out by Madi SHARMA (EESC, Group I "Employers", UK) , several Member States have yet to ratify the conventions and " political will is now most urgent as is the ratification of the Convention by those countries who have not yet endorsed it. Europe needs to put its own house in order so that we can work as a true EU block ".
On the social front, Soscha EULENBURG (EESC, Group III, Germany) proposed to " set up a European Best Practice Resource Centre focusing on Prevention Programmes against online sexual aggression, Counselling / therapy for online victims, Online Counselling and Hotlines ".
State of the art technological tools for internet safety, as well as positions from the world of commerce were put forward by Microsoft's Safer Internet Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Jean-Christophe LE TOQUIN, Paul DURRANT (General Manager ISPA Ireland and Council Member of EuroISPA ), Peter ROBBINS (CEO, Internet Watch Foundation) and Mikael Conny SVENSSON (MasterCard representative).
P articipants also stressed the need for increased dialogue with young people themselves, who are the group that is at risk. The point was vividly demonstrated by an interactive discussion with Cosmin-Bogdan COMAN and Razvan-Alexandru ILINCA , the 18-year old Romanian Winners of this year's Data Protection Day Video Awards.