Obligation for ICT firms to remove child pornography from servers
ICT firms in the Netherlands could soon be obliged to remove all online child pornography from their servers and an independent authority will be set up to monitor whether online companies are complying with this standard, to which they have mutually agreed. Upon receiving a report of material depicting child pornography, they must remove the material from their servers within 24 hours. Most businesses are cooperating with these new standards, although a number of hosting firms are not taking sufficient (or any) action to prevent online distribution of child pornography via their servers. The Netherlands Authority for Combating Online Child Pornography will be empowered to force these negligent businesses to comply with the standards by issuing a binding instruction or imposing a periodic penalty payment. In the event of continued non-compliance, the authority can ultimately impose a maximum fine of 4% of the business's turnover.
These measures have all been implemented into the legislative proposal that Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus today submitted for consultation. The minister described the rapid rise in the volume of child pornography on the internet as worrying and abhorrent. According to analyses by the Online Child Abuse Expertise Centre (EOKM), the number of reports of child pornography being hosted online has grown by more than 1000% over the course of five years (from 28,960 in 2014 to 308,430 in 2019).
'Thanks to our optimal digital infrastructure, hosting companies play a key role in the global internet. However, this unique position also comes with unique responsibilities such as reducing the abhorrently high volume of child pornography. Internet companies have a social responsibility to protect children against online abuse. For this reason, I want to accelerate the efforts to clean up the internet and the non-committal stance concerning internet companies must come to an end.'
says Minister Grapperhaus.
Since 2018, the minister has been working together with the ICT sector to combat online sexual abuse of children. The focus of this public-private partnership is to clean up the internet and to enable the police and the Public Prosecution Service to concentrate more on identifying and prosecuting perpetrators in order to prevent acute cases of child abuse. At the end of last year, a monitoring study by Delft University of Technology found that on average, 84% of online child pornography was removed by the ICT firms within the agreed 24-hour period following a report of the material in question. However, in 16% of cases, it was not removed quickly enough or not removed at all. The university was asked to continue its monitoring activities in order to maintain a clear view of the situation.
The independent Netherlands Authority for Combating Online Child Pornography will play a vital role in ensuring the negligent hosting companies take action and remove all online visual material featuring child pornography from their servers. In addition, this prospective supervisory body will also be able to oblige Dutch hosting companies to take preventive measures to the best of their abilities in order to prevent the distribution of new online child pornography that is uploaded to their servers.
To help internet firms clean up their servers, the police have developed the HashCheckService in collaboration with the Online Child Abuse Expertise Centre. This service, which has been made available to the firms free of charge, enables ICT companies to scan their servers using unique, anonymous codes for images known to the police and subsequently to remove this abusive and harmful content.
According to one measurement taken in September of last year, ICT firms in the Netherlands have scanned 18.2 billion online images using the HashCheckService, allowing the nearly 7.4 million identified child pornographic images to be removed. The HashCheckService is currently being further developed, more and more businesses are using it and the intention for the future is that web hosts will continuously scan new images uploaded to their servers. For all of these reasons and more, the clean-up efforts are expected to become increasingly effective in the future.
Minister Grapperhaus will also make the Dutch HashCheckService available to other countries in the European Union, as he says it is vital that the Netherlands' efforts to prevent hosting of child pornography does not result in it simply being distributed via hosting companies in other EU member states.
'Making the HashCheckService available throughout Europe will contribute substantially towards cleaning up the internet and preventing recurrent victimisation of children. When child pornography is allowed to spread online, it is extremely damaging to the development of children. I am convinced that we can work together at the European level to combat this despicable form of crime. Both at the EU level and at national level, every country has a vital responsibility to protect children.'
says Minister Grapperhaus.