Dear Members of the European Parliament and Member States of the Council of the European Union,
The Phoenix 11 are aware of a joint statement that was sent by a number of scientists and researchers regarding the EU’s proposed Child Sexual Abuse Regulation, and we appreciate the opportunity to have the survivor’s voice heard in this discussion. As far as we can tell, survivors and/or survivor-centric organizations were not consulted or considered in the drafting of the aforementioned joint statement. The group of academics seem to agree that protecting children from abuse and exploitation is the goal, so we believe it makes sense to consider the voices of those whose lives depend on governments to protect them.
The opinion that child sexual abuse and the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse materials are crimes that cannot be completely eradicated with regulation – and therefore governments should not try to pass legislation that would make it more difficult to abuse and exploit children – seems completely counterintuitive to the entire reason we have laws at all. In what kind of society do we live where we say, “laws will make criminals smarter, so we best just let them be criminals”?
The criminals we’re talking about are child predators. They sexually abuse, torture, and sometimes in the commission of their crimes, even murder our most vulnerable citizens, and they do so while recording, live streaming, and/or photographing these horrors. They take requests online, and receive payments for inflicting specific harms. We know this because we have lived it. These are not hypothetical scenarios. We are those children. The argument that we should not bother with internet regulation because predators will simply get better at being predators comes at the expense of the lives of millions of current and future child victims, as well as survivors.
The statement missed the mark from the lived experience perspective. The idea that privacy is important is one that we agree with, but we wonder why the discussion of privacy isn’t centered around victims and survivors? It is our abuse, our bodies, and the most horrific and exploitative instances in our lives being documented and released on the internet to be uploaded, downloaded, traded, and circulated for the rest of our lives. Where is the concern for the privacy of those who have endured abuse and exploitation at the hands of predators to then be repeatedly abused and exploited again by the failures of tech to proactively respond to and remove these materials?
Furthermore, to assert that regulations regarding child sexual abuse materials will jeopardize the consumer’s “right to a private life in the digital space” is an interesting opinion. Social media platforms are social spaces as the name suggests. There is no assumption of privacy when a user knowingly and willingly gives their personal information to a third party. In their terms of service, Meta specifically states in their second paragraph that they “use your personal data to help determine which personalized ads to show you,” aka data mining. Google, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter collect, analyze, and utilize the user’s personal information and online behavior patterns, as do countless other platforms, which we all know by now.
To us, it’s incomprehensible that people freely give away mass amounts of personal data to tech companies, but would then use “privacy” as the argument against regulations requiring companies to scan for images and videos of children being sexually abused. We would hope that the majority of people who are not predators and have no vested interest in Big Tech do actually want to see progress made in stopping the abuse and exploitation of children online.
The failures of technology we should all be most concerned with are the ones that have failed to protect our children from abuse and exploitation time and time again. We should all be wary of opinions that list perceived imperfections with technology that works to save children, but ignore the myriad of ways in which children are being harmed by the gross failures of tech companies.
Our greatest wish is to see our governments, those who have the power and authority to enact real change, act on what we all know to be true: every day that goes by without regulation and meaningful legislation is another day that the epidemic of child sexual abuse material on the internet is getting worse. We urge you not to allow this to happen. We urge you not to err on the sides of those who are complicit in these crimes. We renew our ask for the proposed EU regulation to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse Online to be advanced immediately.
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