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IP/04/333

Brussels, 12 March 2004

European Commission proposes stepping up EU action to combat child porn, racism and spam on the internet

Safer Internet plus, a new €50 million, 4-year programme to make the internet safer for children, was proposed by the European Commission today. This programme, running from 2005 to 2008, would build upon EU work under way since 1996 to combat illegal and harmful internet content. Encompassing new media, such as videos, and new issues such as "spam", it would bring in accession countries, and focus more closely on end users: parents, educators and children. It aims to mobilise talent in the public, private and voluntary sectors to prepare hard-hitting safety campaigns. Its four action lines are: fighting illegal content; tackling unwanted and harmful content (including spam); promoting a safer environment, and awareness-raising.

"Children should have the right to use the internet freely, to chat, to learn or to play games," commented Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. "But to move freely on line, children must be protected from risks of being exploited or cheated by adults."

Activities under the four Safer Internet plus action lines will include:

    Fighting against illegal content

Hotlines are reporting mechanisms which allow members of the public to report illegal content and which pass the reports on to the appropriate body for action. The Commission proposes to fund network co-ordination and individual hotlines.

    Tackling unwanted and harmful content

The programme will provide funding for technological measures that empower users to limit the amount of unwanted and harmful content which they receive, or can be used to assess the effectiveness of available filtering technology. Funding will also be available to support the development of effective filtering technology and promote exchanges of information and best practice on effective anti-spam enforcement.

    Promoting a safer environment

The European Union supports a self-regulatory approach, offering flexibility and understanding of the needs of the medium in an area combining high technology, rapid change and cross-border activity. The Commission will provide a platform for national co-regulatory or self-regulatory bodies to exchange experience - The Safer Internet Forum.

    Awareness-raising

The Commission proposes to support systematic information about safer internet use, particularly for personalised, interactive and mobile applications, linked with other EU actions on media education and internet literacy. The Commission will concentrate on pump-priming, encouraging the multiplier effect and exchange of best practices through a network.

According to an upcoming Eurobarometer survey, half of Europe's parents do not think their children know what to do if a situation on the internet makes them uncomfortable. An EU Safety, Awareness, Facts and Tools (SAFT) survey last year found that 46% of children in Northern Europe who chat on the internet say someone has used it to ask to meet them and 14% have actually met someone in this way, but only 4% of parents believe that their children have done so. The Safer Internet plus programme aims to change this, by empowering parents and teachers to use on-line safety tools.

Safer Internet projects have contributed to several remarkable achievements, including the October 2003 break-up of a world-wide child-porn ring thanks to a tip from the Internet hotline association INHOPE. Filtering services have been compared and new self-regulation models for mobile content proposed. The importance of safer internet awareness among parents has been underlined through several EU-funded surveys, showing that European parents seriously underestimate their kids' daily exposure to harmful content and dangerous situations online.

More information can be found at

http://europa.eu/iap


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