LIBE II Action Plan

Motion for an Action Plan by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs II

An online presence comes with a variety of dangers. With access to the internet and digitalisation becoming a necessity for education, economic and social well-being, how can the EU ensure that States, digital platforms and individuals all cooperate towards protection against image-based sexual abuse and cyber sexual harassment?

Submitted by: Leonardo Carvalho (PT), Liam Downes (IE), Rebecka Hemmestorp (SE), Annahita Koot (NL), Goos Kuijper (NL), Maria Kushleva (BG), Sophia Lialiou (GR), Minni Paju (FI), Daniela Pomyjová (CZ), Eliza Wójcik (PL), Lor van der Zalm (NL); Maria Tanou (Chairperson, CY)

Context

Victims of online sexual abuse, and particularly those belonging to vulnerable communities, are prevented from freely enjoying the benefits of the internet, while being under a high risk of offline violence. Simultaneously, cultural norms around sexual expression and stigmatisation heavily impact the mental health of victims and their ability to report. The lack of research and advocacy on the topic further allows private online platforms to underestimate the pivotal role of preventing such acts and monitoring their content. The core issue of the matter is the lack of uniformity in legislation across the EU, with Member States often having regressive or non-existing laws and reporting mechanisms regarding cyber sexual abuse and harassment. 

The European Youth Parliament recommends taking the following actions on the

Individual and local level

  1. Urges the European Commission to support Member States in allocating the appropriate funds and infrastructure towards the training of authorities handling cyber sexual abuse reports, in particular with regards to:
    1. the first respondent duties of police officers, when receiving reports of cybersexual assault,
    2. the necessary IT skills in order to efficiently investigate instances of cyber sexual abuse; 
  2. Congratulates the efforts of NGOs such as Women’s Aid and Women Against Violence in Europe (WAVE) towards providing psychological support and guidance to victims of cyber sexual abuse and harassment; 

National Level

  1. Encourages social media companies to collaborate with Member States in order to:
    1. enable users to be redirected to websites that list resources for professional, state-specific assistance, 
    2. comply with the Directive on E-Commerce within Member States’ jurisdiction regarding their liability to remove illegal or harmful content; 
  2. Recommends Member States support the implementation of sexual education and consent-oriented courses within the curricula of Member States, in cooperation with relevant local NGOs; 

European level

  1. Requests the European Commission directly addresses the cyber sexual abuse and harassment by issuing an Opinion on:
    1. the creation of a legal definition of cyber sexual abuse and harassment applicable across the EU, 
    2. the potential for Member States to review existing outdated legislation,
    3. procedures regarding prosecution of online sexual abuse and sexual harassment across Member States;
  2. Calls upon the European Commission to encourage further implementation of educational programmes like Cybersafe across the EU by:
    1. funding similar programmes across States through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC),
    2. promoting cross-border collaboration between relevant NGOs;
  3. Congratulates the European Commission on the introduction of the EU Strategy on Victim Rights 2020-2025, and further calls upon its strict implementation regarding victims of online sexual abuse and harassment;
  4. Calls upon the the European Research Council and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to conduct comprehensive and up-to-date research towards cyber sexual abuse, in particular with regards to its effects on minority groups; 
  5. Strongly encourages the European Commission to work together with the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) to support the creation of an independent monitoring body that can assist and guide platforms in:
    1. recognising and profiling those who are especially at risk and then use AI algorithms and monitoring technology in order to acutely track and report online sexual abuse as soon as it happens,
    2. taking an active role in finding, banning and reporting online sexual harassment,
    3. implementing increased transparency toward their users about possible spreads of non-consensual material,
    4. implementing more efficient reporting mechanisms regarding explicit, illegal, or non-consensual content,
    5. faster removal of content that is non-consensual or directed to/depicting children;
  6. Calls upon the European Commission to start consultations regarding a Directive specifically focusing on the issue of cyber sexual abuse and increase monitoring of previous instruments and treaties such as the Istanbul Convention and their applicability to online sexual abuse and harassment.

Main aims

The present Action Plan is based on four different aspirations: firstly, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs II (LIBE II) seeks to promote tighter and cohesive regulatory frameworks of online platforms in order to ensure the protection of children, adults, and members of vulnerable groups from cyber-sexual abuse and harassment. Secondly, the present Action Plan aims to streamline the reporting and prosecution mechanisms in order to ensure effective prevention and penalisation of offenders. Furthermore, the proposed Action Plan aims to bridge the gaps of research and promote knowledge sharing by experts across the EU. Lastly, the Committee aspires to establish a basic standard of awareness and education on consent and reducing risks of victimhood.