Brussels, 6 November 2006
An independent evaluation finds that the EU’s Safer Internet programme, which promote safer internet use, particularly for children, has been very effective in tackling illegal and harmful internet content, whilst respecting people’s freedom of expression. The Commission is taking into account the recommendations of these experts, in its implementation of the “Safer Internet plus” programme in 2007-2008. Meanwhile, the current programme is being used as a model by other regions of the world.
"We have come a long way and very quickly," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "For many years the Safer Internet programme has been successfully promoting safer use of internet and other online technologies, particularly by children, and fighting illegal and harmful content ranging from child pornography to racism. The Commission has also encouraged industry to be more proactive in dealing with child safety."
An evaluation of the "Safer Internet Action Plan" was conducted by independent experts in the first half of 2006. Their conclusions point to the wider relevance of this European programme. Stakeholders see the EU as a pioneer, as it identified early the problem of illegal and harmful internet content. Today, the design and concept of the Safer Internet Action Plan is used in many other countries, in the Asia-Pacific region and in Northern and Latin America as a model of how to tackle such online content while respecting freedom of expression.
The experts also point to the programme's efficiency. Among its main achievements: a European network of 21 national hotlines for end users to anonymously report illegal internet content; and the creation of 23 national awareness nodes to promote safer internet use to children, parents and teachers. According to INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, about 65,000 reports were referred to national and international law enforcement agencies during 2005 for further action and investigation.
To consolidate this good result, the EU’s “Safer Internet plus” programme (2005-2008) is promoting "combined hotlines and awareness nodes". Pilot projects to encourage cooperation between hotlines and law enforcement agencies will be funded from 2007. Stronger support is needed from Member States to promote awareness of hotlines among end users and to promote better cooperation between hotlines and other stakeholders, in particular the police and Internet Service Providers. The INSAFE coordinator, European Schoolnet Partnership, a public-sector consortium funded by 26 education ministries, is to facilitate a dialogue with national administrations, and between teachers and awareness nodes.
Children’s feedback is essential to identify problems and design appropriate solutions. The new EU-funded project EUkids online will improve knowledge of children's behaviour on internet and their present perception of risks. To strengthen awareness of filtering tools, in particular among parents and schools, the Commission is also funding an assessment of the filtering software and services currently available (SipBench). The first results are expected in December this year.
Today, the Commission has published two Communications:
• on the implementation of the multiannual community programme on promoting safer use of the internet and new online technologies (Safer Internet Plus; see : http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/programme/evaluations/index_en.htm
• on the final evaluation of the multiannual Safer Internet Action Plan for the period 2003-2004; see: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/programme/evaluations/index_en.htm
The Commission’s Safer Internet plus programme: http://ec.europa.eu/saferinternet
Awareness nodes: http://www.saferinternet.org/
EUKids Online: http://www.eukidsonline.net/