Child protection and child empowerment: Two sides of the same coin? – WS 01 2012
14 June 2012 | 14:00-15:15
Programme overview 2012
- Deborah Bergamini, Council of Europe
- John Carr, eNASCO
- Albert Geisler Fox, Youth representative
- Erik van der Sandt, Office of the Dutch Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings
- Adelina Trolle Andersen, Youth representative
- Ann Katrin Agebäck, Swedish Media Council
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This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: It’s 2:00.
And 2:00 in Sweden means 2:00.
So let us start this debate about child protection and child empowerment: Two sides of the same coin?
No, we are not starting? There is a whole bunch of people entering the room. There will be five speakers in the panel. And we all hope for a lot of speakers also from the audience when we have started and presented different views to discuss.
I will make a short presentation right now of everybody in the panel. It’s a European panel, as it is a European conference. We have Deborah Bergamini from Italy. We have Erik van der Sandt from the Netherlands, and we have Albert Geisler Fox from Denmark, and Adelina Trolle Andersen from Norway. And we have John Carr from UK.
They will all tell you a little bit more about themselves before they start presenting. As we all know, children have the right to information and children have the right to protection from information that might be harmful to their well-being. This is stated in the U.N. convention on the rights of the child. But the means for protecting children is rapidly changing in the digital era, and makes it necessary to update the way we think about child protection.
You might say there is a movement from installing the protecting field in the computer to installing it in the head of the child. In the head it will stay forever, whether you use a computer, an iPad or a smart phone.
My name is Ann Katrin Ageback. And I’m working as a senior advisor at the Swedish Media Council. I’ve been working all my life with child protection. And once I worked as a film censor for 15 years. And I will tell you just a short lines about this work.
This was to be a film censor. This was before the video films, the computer games, the cable TV and the Internet. Every film that was banned or classified from 15 could not be shown in cinemas in Sweden.
So they were withheld from children in a very efficient way.
There were no way to see these films that we have banned or classified as 15. The only way was to take a flight to the U.S., which no one did in these days. So, sometimes when we talk about child protection, I can think of these days with some nostalgia, because we had really power to protect children. And this is not the case anymore.
But we also were censoring freedom of speech. So it was really two coins of child protection. Today, protection of children is a much more complex issue. And this is what we are going to debate here today. So now we are going to start with the speakers.
I will just give you some additional information before we start. Deborah and Erik – no, sorry, Deborah and Albert and Adelina will present first, and then we take a break, not a break from the room but from the presentations from the panel, and open up the floor to everybody to discuss. And after that John and Erik will have their presentations. And after that we want to have a final debate all together. So you know what to expect from this hour. We have a little bit more than one hour now.
Let’s get started.
So I give the floor to Deborah.
>> DEBORAH BERGAMINI: Thank you, Ann Katrin. Thank you first of all for inviting me to such an important event. We are discussing many aspects concerning the Internet. And thank you for having decided to come to listen to this panel.
We politicians were not so much used especially in southern Europe to such a young audience. So I’m impressed and happy to discuss with you. Instructions are that we have to keep this hour as interactive as possible. So I’ll try to be as short and as quick as possible. But I wanted to share some ideas, some aspects with you keeping into consideration my function.
I am a member of the Italian parliament. And in my country, I work on digital contents and digital aspects of modernity. Also I work in the parliamentary assembly of the council of Europe in Strasbourg, where I chair a subcommittee devoted to the media.
So I can consider myself someone who has to be very able to listen to the different segments of the society, especially for what concerns protection, empowerment of minors for what concerns the Internet.
Why am I saying so? Because as a legislator I believe that the discussion on who should set the rules for the Internet and finally how to shape the right framework for Internet has to start from you, from the users.
And also, I am convinced that among all the users of the Internet, children, minors let’s say, are the ones who represent the higher potential while needing the utmost protection.
Now, I’ll just give you some figures. I hope not to be too boring about that, but I find these figures very interesting.
It is a recent research made by EU kids on-line network, financed by the safer Internet programme of the EU commission. It says that 93 percent of children from 9 to 16 years old access the Internet at least once a week, 60 percent every day.
On average they start to use the Internet at around 7, 8 years old. The European youngs stay on line an average 88 minutes per day. Often they access Internet in their room or via smart phone. With the age, the users in terms of quality and quantity, the on-line users differentiate and use of social networking and exchange of digital content becomes prevalent.
Almost 60 percent of children from 9 to 16 years old has a profile on a social network, and out of them 26 percent has a public profile. Those are the situations which are more risky for children and kids.
We all know and we are all discussing about how gigantic is the Internet as an opportunity for children, in terms of nonformal, formal education, socializing, even civic participation.
But again, the other face of the coin is that there are high risks that children’s rights are ignored or in the worst cases are violated on-line. And they are increasing. These risks are increasing; also because often children use the Internet when alone and with no preparation.
Another aspect I want to share with you, again interviews done under the same research, children and youngs do not consider the protection of their privacy as a concern. 78 percent of children use social network to maintain and consolidate their friends’ network, putting their personal data on-line with no filters nor any idea of the consequent risks.
41 percent of the European children reported that they have encountered risky situations from child pornography to bullyism to Internet addiction or improper use of personal data.
These figures show us the risks.
A further important aspect that we have to keep in mind as legislators is related to the transporter nature of the Internet, which creates problems in particular when illegal activities involving children are undertaken by subjects or through servers that are located abroad. And you know that laws are very different, are changing from one country to the other, which makes our work even more difficult.
So we definitely know that if we want to address the new challenges that the Internet is creating for children and kids, we must deliver a common effort. I refer to the public sector and to the private sector.
As I was telling you, I’m coming also under the name of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe has a long tradition of protection of children in the different aspects. The Council of Europe has been working now for over 60 years.
In recent times, we have produced three international treaties regarding child protection; one against cyber-crime, one in favor of data protection, and the third one against child pornography or child abuse, as we want to call it, especially focused on the Internet.
All these three international treaties are of course open to the signature of nonEuropean countries. We consider this work an excellent work, and an important step when we are saying that we want to harmonize, to standardize as much as we can rules over the Internet and the functioning of the Internet regarding our kids.
We are now working on another report that is more concerned about user protection. We are just now discussing it. And I’m sure that from this exchange, I will have a very useful information that I can put in the work we are doing in Strasbourg regarding user protection.
You know also that at a legislative level, and debate is open on who has to set the rules and how many rules must be put over the Internet. I think it’s a good thing that this debate is so complicated and open.
But as I was saying, at a legislative level, maybe it is worth mentioning the fact that there is a recent EU directive on combatting the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, which establishes a set of minimum rules in the EU concerning the definition of criminal offenses and sanctions in the area of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. Probably we will discuss this further later on.
You probably know also that at a policy level, in May, the European Commission published a new strategy for a better Internet for children. It is difficult in a few minutes to share with you how many policies are being developed for the sake of the empowerment and protection of our children in relation to the Internet or to digital contents.
But certainly, there is a clear-cut vision regarding the fact that either this effort is done together, or it’s going to be a failure, also because figures are growing very fast. In this context, and I’m almost concluding, I welcome very much as a legislator the measures that are voluntarily taken by many European ICT companies. The industry is showing a great sensibility on a voluntary basis concerning the issue we are discussing today.
Many ICT companies in their internal processes already provide for mechanisms for combatting illegal activities on the Internet, particularly against children. So we must encourage this work. Again, it’s done mostly on a voluntary basis for the time being. We must encourage that.
We need the private sector to be cooperative, if we want to try to defeat this very complicated phenomenon.
So let me tell you, then of course I’m more than happy to answer to questions, there are so many things I would like to share with you, but I know that the time is not so much.
But let me just tell you that as legislators, we know very well how complicated the pathway to the construction of a safe and conscious environment in the Internet for younger generation, is long and paved with question marks, paved with doubts, paved with challenges. We know it very well. We have it very clear in mind.
We know how difficult it is to standardize everything, and to try to make up a simple approach, a united approach to the problem.
But I am sure that it is only out of the work like the one that we are doing in these days here in Stockholm that we can really do what is most important in this phase; that is, encouraging an open debate, an open debate, with all the stakeholders of the Internet environment.
Only through these open debate, we as legislators will be able to provide good laws, not too many, not useless laws, but good rules at least for guiding in what our responsibilities of course, not one more than those, in guiding towards a good development of the Internet. Because you know, I believe matching the self-regulatory capacity of the Internet world, I’m a strong believer in that, as well as I’m a strong believer of the fact that there is no one that may be interested in transforming the Internet in a sort of lawless land, there is no one who has an interest in that.
Thank you for now.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you, Deborah. I think we go straight to you, Erik van der Sandt.
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: You want to do the movie first?
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: No movie. But we are going to you, Adelina from Norway.
>> ADELINA TROLLE ANDERSEN: I thought it was really funny, because one of you said that you fear what the youth are doing on the Internet, which you don’t know. This may come as a shock for you, but you don’t always know what we are doing outside the Internet as well. I thought I should like open with just saying that, so you know that sometimes it is for the best that you guys don’t know everything your children do; for both parts, not just the children but also the parents.
I also wanted to refer to what Neelie Kroes said about dialogue, participation and cooperation being the best tools for the best Internet, and I can agree with that. I think everybody should cooperate. And I think it is really important for you to always involve youth and children as well when you have discussions about Internet, because Internet is such a big part of our life.
When we grow old and when we are the decision-makers and the teachers and the people trying to educate your grandchildren, we will learn them about Internet, because we grew up in a world where we got to know the Internet without you. We got to learn how the Internet works without you telling us “don’t click on that. You will get a virus if you do that.” We learned that without you filtering the Internet, without you just removing things from the Internet.
We learned that because you can’t filter the Internet and teach children that you can filter out the bad things in life, because you can’t do that in real life. You can’t just remove bad things. Bad things will happen. But you just have to learn the children, educate them how to avoid bad things from happening, because not knowing about bad things doesn’t mean you won’t get exposed to them.
I think it is really important that you have an open dialogue with children and youth to understand more, and then you will have this good cooperation.
I also would like to say that youth is not only the future, it is the present. That is why we need to be involved as youth participants, not as soon-to-be-taking-over-my-job participants. And there is a difference, because the difference is between the present and the future. And I don’t want to be prepared for how to do your job. I want to be taken here and then doing my job, and my job is to be an expert on how to be young, how to grow up with this new thing, Internet, and using it all the time. I have my notes on my iPhone while you guys take notes with your pens and paper.
Well, not you. (Chuckles.)
And I think that is real important, that everybody will participate in that. And I also think that when you all, when you have all these conferences discussing Internet, and the decision-makers can’t agree on anything, it will take so long, so much time, that when we grow old, you haven’t done anything yet. So we have to do it anyway.
And then it will be natural for us to do it, to implement education about Internet in school, and how to use Internet correct, not only in school, but as a tool for learning and working, but only on your – but also on your time off.
I think that’s really important, that we all understand that and can agree on that, and that you can agree on us being youth participants, and not taking-over-your-job participants. And yes. I think that’s all I have to say, because I just wanted to make that clear. I think that is really important, to being able to discuss and have like the right focus afterwards. Thank you.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you, Adelina. Maybe you should just present yourself a little bit too.
>> ADELINA TROLLE ANDERSEN: Yeah, sorry. I’ve been engaged in politics since I was like 12 years old. I’m a member of the Norwegian Labor Party’s Youth Organisation. I’ve also been in the government’s expert group on youth power and participation. And I’ve been working with Plan Norway. So I’ve been to a lot of conferences, and which makes me want to say this.
I think actually this conference is where I have seen the best representative of youth participations, because all the other conferences where I’ve been to, there’s always been like really engaged and really like youth who is only working with politics. But here it is youth who is not working with politics, but like really average youth who sits on the iPhone while I’m talking, and playing games and stuff like that.
And that’s, I really wanted you, for you to know that. Thank you.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: You are 17 years old.
>> ADELINA TROLLE ANDERSEN: Yeah, I’m 17 years old.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Okay. So let us listen to Albert from Denmark.
>> ALBERT GEISLER FOX: Hi. My name is Albert. I’m 15 years old. I live in Copenhagen, Denmark. I am part of Pan EU Youth Project Ambassador, as we call them, which is a joint project between Vivendi, European Schoolnet and Insafe.
And I would like to start off by telling you a story from the real life. I have a little brother, he is 11 years old, and he is just now starting to go home from school alone. My parents, they looked very very strange when he told them that he would like to go home alone now because all of the other kids did that.
They were mostly concerned with the fact that he may be kidnapped, that he would be molested sexually, that he would be, well, I don’t know what, but a lot of bad things. They actually told him no and he didn’t go home alone. He is at the point where he is taking the bus home alone, and that is pretty awesome.
But I think, he has a Facebook account, and so does I think it’s 49 percent of, yeah, 33 percent of the 9 to 12-year-olds in the European Union, which, and just to all of you who doesn’t know it, you have to be 13 years old to create a Facebook account, meaning that there is 33 percent of the 9 to 12-year-olds on Facebook that is there illegally probably.
But my parents really didn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that he has a Facebook account, because they looked at him and said, well, you just have to make sure that you don’t make any friends that you don’t know from real life, and you have to make sure that you don’t give out your phone number and your address to people you don’t know, and you just have to promise that you will come to us if you receive something nasty or stuff like that.
And he listened to that, and as I know there hasn’t been, there has been nothing yet. And I think that was really important that they didn’t set up a filter, and they didn’t ask him for his password to his Facebook account, nothing. They just told him and trusted him and said, just make sure that if there is something wrong, you come to us.
And I think that is a great example for both Facebook, for all of you guys, for all the stakeholders, that you should not try to, well, to violate the privacy of the youth.
I don’t think that you should gain access to the Facebook account, because then they will just go ahead and create another Facebook account which you don’t know of.
I think that you have to make sure as a parent that you teach your kid to make sure, to trust you, and that they feel comfortable with coming to you and telling that, hey, listen up, I just received something, something nasty; would you help me try to remove it or try to ban this man or report it for the best sake.
I think that empowering the parents to empower their children is the best way to go for managing the Internet. Thank you.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: So now we have heard different voices. And I will open up the floor for you to raise questions or to give comments on what you have heard. Yes, in the background. I think you need the microphone.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a bit of a comment or observation. Hello. I’m Jeremie Zimmerman, cofounder of Internet Cities, an organisation defending freedoms on line. And I wanted to state that, everybody fully agrees with the objectives of protecting the children, of combatting the dissemination of images of child abuse, and things like that.
But first of all, I think there is a great confusion in those, in the definition of those problems that doesn’t serve your cause. When you confuse protecting children from violent content on-line with dissemination of image of child abuse, you won’t get a solution to either of them.
There is a real question of protecting children against violent material, against inappropriate content for them on-line. This can always be solved by the parents, and by education, maybe assisted with tools. In that context, the tools, well, you should learn from what we do on the Internet. We crowd source things.
And if all the concerned parents contributed to these tools, together decide what is inappropriate or not, you would be so much more, you will get much better results than by letting that in the hands of centralized actors.
And you see my point here is that by mixing those very emotional issues together, it is most of the times to hide an agenda that promotes the blocking of filtering. That is exactly the very same technologies that are being deployed for the purpose of political censorship in authoritarian regimes. And you will never make the mechanisms acceptable even with the greatest intentions of protecting the children, etcetera.
I want people here to think about it. Let’s use decentralized solutions about protecting the children on the end user, on the client side, and not deploy censorship at the heart of the network.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you very much. Do you have any comment, Deborah?
>> DEBORAH BERGAMINI: Yes. We are very conscious of what you are saying. We know very well that the same technologies, the same ways of trying to block harmful material or functions against our children are used for censorship in nonDemocratic countries. We know very well. We are conscious of that.
We know that there is a power in the Internet of, again, self-regulatory nature, that is a good thing. That is a positive thing. And that must be respected, because it’s showing to legislators, not only to legislators of course, how self-regulatory functions can provide a good environment, not good enough in some cases, and I refer again to risks for children or minors.
So the whole question of legislators is exactly the one you were pointing at, trying to find a good balance. Probably it is not yet existing in nature today. Maybe it will never exist. But try to set up a proper balance between the freedom that is the first identity of the Internet, and at the same time, the protection of those who are more exposed.
I remember, and then I’ll conclude, I remember, being older than most of you, that a similar question was posed at the time of television, because many children were considered to be at risk at watching television, watching programmes that could be violent or inappropriate, because maybe parents were in another room in the house.
And so for a long time, laws were proposed and approved and an ever-changing debate on this, how to protect children from TV, inappropriate content, of course.
And at the end, parental control was invented. That was it. After ages, ages, ages of debates, the result was a technological device and parental control. I’m not so sure that this was the ideal solution, of course. Educating children and parents to, shall we call it, reciprocal empowerment would be ideal. But unfortunately, not always a good idea becomes a successful practice.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you. Other comments or questions? Yes. Microphone, please.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello, my name is Laticia. I’m here representing the European Youth Forum. My question is, I agree on the fact that there is a parental control on other media, but does it work? That’s the question.
My other question is, child protection also attracts threats, because if we create a safer Internet for children, that would also attract those people that want to abuse children. So the idea that I have is that if we create, let’s say we talk about a city like Stockholm. We create a garden in which only children between the age of 0 and 11 can go. Don’t you think that all those bad people that we know about, pedophiles and pornography, child pornography addict and so on, would just go and have a look at, if the fence is high enough, and they can just get in, because that would be the biggest concentration of children that there is.
So the empowerment is not only about being naive and wanting children to just be exposed to risks and then to learn that if you touch the red button it’s a bad thing. But it’s also about making sure that we don’t create spaces that are really just a temptation for criminals to abuse them. Thank you.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Yes. Microphone in front here, please.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. The thing is, there is some kind of, let’s say – I’ll start over. You think that this term parental control is basically some magical solution to everything. I guess, yes, it might filter out some of the content as she said. But it doesn’t filter everything.
And in the meantime it is basically censoring. And that goes directly against all the principles and morals that we are suggesting at this forum ourselves.
Isn’t that illogical, immoral?
>> DEBORAH BERGAMINI: Maybe I was not clear, maybe because I’m not speaking my language. I don’t think that parental control is a perfect solution. On the contrary; I just said after discussion what should be done, we end up with parental control. If you ask me as a professional on television, parental control seems to me to be working quite well. But of course, I’m referring to porn channels, all that stuff, no, I don’t feel myself immoral in trying to avoid children to watch porn. So absolutely.
But, I don’t think that that is the right way. And so I want to say something more. But it is true, bad intentions have the tendency to override any good rule or any good law.
So even if we build up the most technologically protected walled garden for our children to be protected, sooner or later, rather sooner, there will be someone who will take benefit of that.
So of course, it is all a matter of rewriting a good sense and consciousness of how to be in the Internet both for adults and for younger generations.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Albert.
>> ALBERT GEISLER FOX: One of the things about parental control is that you can put the biggest firewall in your house, but everybody, everybody has a friend of which house there is no firewall and no parental control.
So if you were to really want to be cool and watch porn, then you can probably go to one of your friends’ house and log on to your neighbor’s wi-fi.
>> DEBORAH BERGAMINI: Or over the Internet anyway.
>> ALBERT GEISLER FOX: Yeah, so I don’t see parental control as a solution. I see it as a temporary fix.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: We have two speakers, three; a man in the white shirt. Okay, you are first. I’ll return to you.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I think that ought to be, we should be cautious, because I feel like a lot of the suggestions focus on putting the responsibility of educating our children on the Internet. But I think we should focus on trying to educate the children ourselves and not put the responsibility on the Internet, because it is a tool. It is a tool we use for entertainment, for learning, for almost everything today.
But I also think we should be careful not to neglect our children that way, that we let just the Internet educate them and try to educate them ourselves. I agree that while parental control could be an easy solution and maybe an ethical solution, but I think in the end, we would benefit more from educating the children and changing their ethics, learning standards, that if you go and cite and try to talk to strangers, you will probably in the end find a pedophile wanting to maybe abuse you.
That is more important than just banning different sites and putting restrictions on sites.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you. Now the man in the white shirt.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. Hello. Edward Morris from the University of Leeds. I’m a parent. What right do you have to tell me how to raise my son? I may want him to see soft porn. That may be my value.
Along the same lines, when I moved to Sweden 15 years ago, I lived here, I was shocked at television. They had naked little boys and girls running around on toilet paper advertisements. In the States that would have been outrageous; yet a Finnish friend visited me in America and was outraged at Rambo being on TV.
Two questions: One, what about parental rights which you propose to take away from me? And two, what about the international aspect of the Internet? Whose values are we going to legislate on line?
>> DEBORAH BERGAMINI: You are asking me if I want to take away your rights as parent?
>> The minute you start censoring the Internet, you are taking away my right to determine what my son or daughter watches on line. I may have different values than you. Is it the Pope in Italy going to tell us what to watch? Is it you? Is it the Internet Watch Foundation whose policies I don’t agree with? Others are already censoring what my kids can watch.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: There is another speaker, a man in a black suit.
>> Thank you. My name is Johnny Gylling. I’m with Telenor, a mobile operator. I was thinking about what can the industry provide in this discussion? Albert said something very good. You said that we should empower the parents to empower their children.
In Sweden, we have a private/public partnership called Surf Safely, or something like that, where I am a board member. It is the government, it is the industry, and children’s rights organisations that work together.
Our primary focus is to empower parents to engage in their children’s daily life, whether it’s on the street or on the Internet.
I really hope that other countries will follow these examples, because there is so much to do, and we can do it together. We provide experts that are talking to people in schools; maybe not telling them exactly how they should foster their children, but to engage in their daily life.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you. Then I think it’s time to continue with the panel members. John Carr, you are from eNASCO. Please tell us more.
>> JOHN CARR: By the way, can I start off by saying I was a founding director of the Internet Watch Foundation many years ago. I am an atheist, and I have been an atheist for at least 30 years. I’ve never heard a religious point made ever in any of the discussions that have taken place at the Internet Watch Foundation. I’m sorry, I’m very very sorry if that interferes with your obvious prejudice towards the Internet Watch Foundation, but it’s simply not true that there is any religious influence of any kind, and there never has been within the Internet Watch Foundation. Had there been, I would not be a member of it.
No, no, you should find out the truth before you open your mouth.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Start the presentation.
>> JOHN CARR: Who? No. But I do know a great deal about the Internet Watch Foundation, because I’ve been involved with it since it was established in 1996. I’ve never once in all that time heard any discussion in which any religious point was ever made by anyone, ever.
So I want to talk a little bit about the Harbor Hotel story, because that came up this morning very forcibly in the speech made by Commissioner Kroes. And I was very involved in the BBC – sorry, channel 4 news story that went out on TV on Tuesday night.
How about any of you in the room, members of Harbor Hotel or users of it? One. Only one. Harbor Hotel claims to have a quarter of a billion, quarter of a billion, 250 million users worldwide. It’s a place where people go, as the name suggests, it’s in the form of a hotel, you check in, you give your name, you have an avatar that you construct yourself. You engage in conversations with various people. And you can buy furniture to decorate the room, reflect your own personality and do all kinds of things that you as a young person wants.
When Harbor first started, it was aimed at 6, 7, 8-year-olds. But at some point, I don’t know when, they shifted to 13-year-olds and above. But they don’t have an authentication system in place, and don’t have a way of verifying either the age or the identity of anybody who joins Harbor Hotel.
What happened, by the way, they employ about 250 moderators to supervise the discussions that take place; this is what they say, I should say. They also employ clever software running in the background to pick out bad words, bad conversations, that kind of thing. And if the software picks up bad words, bad conversations, that kind of thing, the idea is that a human moderator is meant to jump in and stop that bad conversation from taking place.
Obviously, something went very badly wrong with Harbor Hotel’s system of moderation. The reason this came to light is because a few months ago, two men, they didn’t know each other, there was no link between them, it just happened that they, the cases happened simultaneously, but one was in the north of England, one was in the south of England. Between these two men, they were in contact with and in an abusive relationships with 82, 8-2, different children whom they had first met and encountered through Harbor Hotel.
One man was sentenced to 7 years in jail for the things that he did to and with some of the children. The other man was sentenced to 2 years in jail for things that he did with and to the children.
Harbor Hotel had signed up to the EU’s self-regulatory code of practice, in which it promised to be a good social networking site, in which it promised that it would have effective systems for keeping children safe. Two years ago, when the last review of the operation of those principles took place, it got essentially a clean bill of health. So the European Union said, yes, Harbor Hotel, doing a good job.
As I said, obviously something went wrong, because with the events I just described. Now, that raises a very important question about what self-regulation can achieve.
I’m afraid I don’t agree, don’t share your optimism about what self-regulation can do, because those rules which those companies signed up to do not have the force of law behind them. So some companies obviously felt either that they could ignore them completely, or that they didn’t matter that much, because had those rules had the force of law behind them, or had there been a different regime for inspecting how those rules were being observed and it was kept up to date, then I’m sure what happened to those 82 children – that is not a small number of children – it may not have happened. It may have been possible to prevent it.
This, by the way, let me also make clear, I’m completely opposed to any form of censorship. If something is legal, there is no basis at all for it not to be available on and through the Internet. None.
If it’s illegal, it shouldn’t be there. Child abuse images are the classic case in point. But if it’s legal, there is no basis whatsoever – excuse me – for that material not to be available on the Internet.
What there is a case for, and I’m very strongly committed to this, is the idea that it shouldn’t always be equally accessible to everybody instantly. I take a parallel from the real world. We have in the UK a system of film classification. Right? We say, if you are less than 18, you cannot buy, you cannot go into a cinema and watch certain types of film. Doesn’t mean to say, go back to the point about parental rights, that your parent if they choose to, absolutely, they can allow you to, that is a matter of individual choice within each and every family.
But by law, what we are saying is this is the standard that we as a society think should be observed. And I see no reason, no reason at all why a similar standard shouldn’t also apply on-line.
So yes, if you meet the age requirement, if you can show that you are, if it’s age appropriate for you, absolutely, you can look at it. I don’t have any problem with that.
The fact that some governments in some parts of the world do bad things with the software is not my fault. By the way, these are the governments who have been doing bad things for several hundred years. I don’t think it required the Internet to come along to convince them that they could find a new way of oppressing their people. They have been oppressing their people for a long time. This is another way in which they are carrying it on.
It doesn’t mean though that parents in Britain or parents in Sweden or Denmark, or wherever it is, that they should be deprived of the right to do that as well.
I don’t want anything to be censored, but I do think there is a case for saying that certain types of material, violent images, some sexual material, shouldn’t be always on tap 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to anybody and everybody.
There should be better means of ensuring that the people who are qualified and better able to deal with it get it, and the others don’t.
Finally, and I’ll go back to the point I was trying to make, obviously very badly, this morning in the plenary about the video. The video is great. I want to use it. I can think of lots and lots of places where that video will go down really well, because it shows the views of very articulate, very well-educated, engaged young people and what they think about the Internet.
The organisations that I work with work with children who do not fit into that category. They are a very long way from being in that category. We work with homeless children, abandoned children, the children of refugees, the children of families who don’t speak English or don’t speak the language of the country in which they live.
We speak and deal with and work with children who are being abused within their families, whose families don’t care and don’t have the knowledge or the money or whatever to do what your parents are doing very well. The question for a civilized society is what do we do about those children?
You could say, and some do say this, it’s bad luck on those children. Tough. Nothing we can do. I’m not willing to accept any limitations, any inconvenience, any minor obstacles being put in my way to help protect somebody else’s children because they got lousy parents.
That is a barbaric view. That is not my view. I don’t support the idea. It is maybe inconvenient, it may be momentarily difficult to leap over some of the barriers, but that is all they are. It is not censorship.
If, in the UK, if I want a driving license, or if I’m going to a pub, in fact, you know the last time I was asked about my age – and by the way, I am over 18 – the last time I was asked about my age was in a bar in California. I had to go back to my hotel, get my passport so that I could produce it to this barman in California, because he wanted to see the proof of my age before he could give me a drink. I regarded that as a minor inconvenience, but not a fatal one.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you, John.
Now finally we return to Erik van der Sandt from the Rapporteur in the Netherlands
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: I’m working for the independent Dutch Rapporteur on trafficking of human beings and sexual violence against children. We are fully paid by the government, but we are independent. But I’m allowed to ask for police files and victim assistance files. And I’m always invited to operational meetings.
So we speak to a lot of politicians as well. And for the last years I’ve put a lot of research on on-line sexual violence and for the report you can go to our Websites, BNRN, and it’s in English and the report is about child abuse images.
I’m a researcher. But I also feel that I’m a translator, because I was 12 when we got Internet at home. I chatted to a lot of pedophiles when I was young. Lot of fun as well, always trying to trick them to take off their clothes in front of the web cam. I see all my experience come back at research.
I think I’m one of the first generations which is now addressing these issues, but also experienced it myself. I’m a little bit worried because we speak with a lot of people, companies, policymakers, politicians, police investigators. And I want to make some conclusions or some observations about security and privacy related to children, especially on-line sexual violence.
What worries me is that in a political, emotional moment level, security and privacy are mutually exclusive concepts in the heads of these perhaps people, politician, policymakers, politicians.
And also, child pornography is misused to address certain things and to pass legislation. Our foreign minister, or our minister of economic affairs said that ACTA would fight child pornography. We speak to members of parliament. They say data mining will solve child abuse images. There are no investigators in this field of study, so those who investigate these crimes, whoever said that. So that worries me because on an individual level, so for the children themselves, privacy is security.
I’ll explain that. Being anonymous may help you to step forward and to report abuse. For example, we had in Harbor Hotel, in the Dutch Harbor Hotel a police officer. He is there always. It is a very unique programme. This guy established a bond with these children. These children want to be involved and want to be his friend. And he is really good at trying to convince these children to step forward and say, okay, if there is something, please come forward. I will help you. He solved a lot of abuse cases as well.
So this is something the status quo, where we are. But where are we heading towards? I’m a little bit worried that we are always talking about problems between civilians. I want to address that within next years many young people from not so Democratic countries will be on the Internet as well. Probably they will face problems with other civilians, maybe people with a sexual interest in children.
But they will face their state and they will face certain deviant or not so well-behaving companies as well. What are we doing with our legal framework to address these problems, that the state and companies can be a problem as well? We are not.
He have the CRC, Convention on Rights of Child, is not addressing any problems. Of course, we think it’s the right of a company to know what the customer is doing. It’s not a right. It would be beneficial. Right to privacy, that is an absolute right.
Maybe we need an optional protocol on digital issues. We need a firm legal framework, and the treaty is such a very successful framework. But we have to address other issues and sexual violence as well. But what we see in the Netherlands is there are a lot of gray areas, of course.
If the legal framework doesn’t address certain issues, you still can of course have public/private partnerships. But then everybody should be involved. That is not always the case. The Internet community is not always involved.
I totally agree that, if the guy in the back said we have to crowd source certain ideas, that is exactly my point. Related to child pornography, child abuse images, we need to crowd source those ideas because government people come up with government solutions. And we need to just tell the public, like these are the issues within the investigation or prevention or so on, please be involved. Come up with solutions.
If I talk to hackers, they come up with the most wonderful solutions. Are they invited by the government? No. They created this world, the Internet world. I think it is not only a governmental problem, it is a societal problem. You should get other people involved to get their ideas out.
I think I have until 3:00. So maybe there is also room for discussion.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Yeah, hopefully, if you feel that you said what you intended to.
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: Yeah, but I think the discussion is also important.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Yeah, okay. So once again, we open up the floor. And I hope it will be just as vivid debate as it was before.
>> ALBERT GEISLER FOX: To the man in the white shirt, I was thinking, you sound like you are the parent that would like your independency and serenity as a parent, and I wonder, wouldn’t you then prefer that there wasn’t any kinds of protection on-line, so that you could teach your child not to go into these Websites, and not to do – well –
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: First of all, I greatly admire the fact that at your age you are on this panel, and something yourself and your parents should be proud of. When I was a kid and I was growing up, my parents parented me different perhaps than the folks in the States would. They sent me into the rough portions. I grew up in the state of New York. I was sent to New York, no restrictions, from age 12 on. I made mistakes. I learned from mistakes.
For my kids, I want them to know what is on-line, want them to be able to come to me and say, I saw a sheep having sex with a woman; what is that about, Dad? That is the world out there. The world is not a protected place that you can do A, B and Cs. At age 13 in many countries you are already sexually active.
We have many questions. What do you set the age at? My friend doesn’t believe in censorship. But he has been in an organisation that censors. There is a contradiction. I should have the right to set guidelines for my children. If I want my child to watch hard core pornography – and no, I don’t – that should be my right, not the state’s. That is my point.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Next speaker in the front line.
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: Maybe we should also progress in the discussion, not always about censorship and not, we have to address the problems of children and not always talking about the Internet and so on. That is of course important. But now we have to think, how can we use the Internet to inform children?
How can we use the Internet to get other people involved and getting ideas of these people, because everybody concerns about child problems, but only few people are speaking. It is always about censorship. We have to broaden this. We have to get people involved. We have to find other ways.
I mean, Internet is an opportunity to address this, to prevent sexual abuse from happening and to tackle sexual abuse from happening, but it happens also in the real world, in a physical world. But Internet maybe can contribute to stop this.
But I think we have to move on because we can talk about it for hours. There are two different views, and we will never have consensus about this.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Next speaker.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can you hear me?
>> Hi, my name is Hege Andersen, from the Norwegian Media Authority. I wanted to ask a question to the panel in regards to, you were talking about privacy, and in regards to child protection, filters, technical solutions, but none of you talked about age.
I wonder your opinions on different ages on the children, and in regards to privacy and using, use or not use those kinds of solutions for protecting your children.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Anyone who has an answer? Adelina and then John.
>> ADELINA TROLLE ANDERSEN: As the man in the white shirt, I think it is up to the parents, because the parents can be there to observe the children, and see how mature the children is and what the children understand.
So it’s like when if your kid comes home from kindergarten and is 5 years old and tells you, I want to learn how the Internet works, it is kind of up to you as a parent to sit down with your kid and show them how it works.
You can be there in the start, to observe how the children is managing the cope with different kind of Websites, and see how the children uses it.
When I was, I think I was 9 years – between 7 and 10, when I started using the Internet. I never got into weird sites, because I was always on like go super model or some girl sites, and just like I was talking to other girls on the site. But I was also very conscious, because my mom always told me, you never have to meet strangers, never give them your phone number, don’t tell them where you live. And at the same time, she told me, don’t go into stranger’s cars if they tell you I have candy, come into my car, I will give you candy. I didn’t go into the car. And I also, I never got into those sites. And I never got a man stalking me or something like that happening in real life, because I had given up my phone number for example, because I didn’t do that.
I think one of the worst things happening when I was 10 years old, I was in the site called NetBee in Norway, and the name was like Parmesano, and some guy, like 50, sent me a text and he said I bet your name is Parmesano because you like it on top. And I deleted my NetBee account because I didn’t want any guys who was 50 or old to send me those kind of texts, because he continued sending texts saying you like it on the top, you like it on the top; I was like, right, and just deleted it.
I think that is like what parents have to do with the children, tell them don’t give out your phone number, don’t talk to strangers too much and stuff, like you tell them not to go in strangers’ cars because it’s building this trust bond between parents and children. I think that’s what you have to do; not like see ages, because children are different. Like two 5-year-olds can be really different from each other.
That is why you have to talk to the children all the time. Again, make that special dialogue.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you. John.
>> JOHN CARR: We give the vote to people at the age of 18 on the assumption that by that time, they will have worked out enough about the world to make sensible decisions.
Obviously we got that pretty wrong in Britain, the last general election. But my point being, whatever age you set any rule at, it is going to be wrong for some kids, because all kids, like all human beings, are different.
We actually in the UK, on the question of data privacy and data protection, this is what our law says. Our law says that any company engaging with any child where the company is asking that child to give them data, personal data, so that would include Facebook or anything that involves the child being asked to give information about themselves, that company is meant to do an individual assessment of that individual child’s actual capacity to understand the nature of the transaction that they are engaging in.
No company in the world, let me repeat that, no company in the world has found a way of doing that in the Internet space. And so we have a law and a rule which is completely inappropriate and unenforceable and unusable. That doesn’t mean to say though that I don’t think we have to have these rules. We do.
But we have to accept that they won’t work perfectly. They will be wrong for some. I mean some kids at 11 have the maturity of people of 15, 16. As I said earlier, some people of 18 have got no maturity at all. I know some people at 50 who shouldn’t have the right to vote. But we make these arbitrary rules and they are the best that we can do.
I’m afraid at the end of the day, we are going to have to have them, because there is no other way of doing it in the on-line space. You cannot do individual assessments, like a parent would, about what is suitable for this child or that child. But of course, at the end of the day, it should always be open to the parents within limits. By the way, within limits, there are abusive parents, there are bad parents, I don’t want those abusive parents or those bad parents to be able to ruin their children’s lives simply in the name of parents’ rights; absolutely not.
We have social workers. We have police systems. We have legal regimes that are meant to intervene and stop that from happening. I reject completely the idea of absolute parental rights or absolute parental control. Yes, parental rights exist and they should exist, but within limits. And the ultimate test is, is it in the interest of the child, and somebody somewhere has to make a decision about that, and it isn’t always the parent that makes the best one.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Okay. We have two more speakers. The man in the back. Three. Three speakers. Be short, please.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’ll try to be brief. Jeremie Zimmerman again. I wish we can move on from the discussion about censorship, but it would mean the solutions would have been set aside, and in this very room, I see people who still promote the censorship mechanism as a solution for whichever problem there is involving children.
In reality I think that this is a choice of a society. It is a choice of a model. In one case we enable individuals in a decentralized way that is the reflection of the diversity of individuals and children and situation. On the other hand, we centralize power in the hands of governmental actors or in the hands of companies.
I have two examples I want to contribute to the conversation. First of all, Optanet, this company providing parental filters and involved with ISPs for ISP-based parental filters and the president is close to the (inaudible) it has been revealed within the list of blocked Websites were Websites about abortion because it is protecting children from knowing about abortion.
Another example, Orange in the UK enabled service for its clients a list of Websites that would be blocked on the mobile Internet to protect the children. My Website was filtered by Orange UK. We were censored, all probably a mistake, maybe because we say bad things about Orange and about censorship. I don’t know. We will never know. If there wouldn’t be a public outrage about it, we would still be censored today. What do you prefer, centralized or decentralized?
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: We have to continue. We are running out of time. Marie, I know.
>> Thank you. Hello, my name is Marie, representing the European Alliance for Child Safety Online. I’m happy to have youth representatives on the panel. It is nice to have your opinion on these discussions.
I would like to ask you a question, but also the rest of the youth here, on the floor, because I think what you have been saying is relevant. I think you are great proof of having parents who care, who have the resources to introduce you and parents who actually want to do, to introduce their children to Internet and what is to be done, not to be done.
But I think it is also very important, as mentioned, there is a huge amount of young people and children who don’t have these parents who can empower the children. I think it will be great if I could have your ideas, opinion. I know maybe we haven’t followed up before, but how do you think we can empower those children who don’t have, who don’t go to school, who don’t take part in ordinary educational programmes, who don’t have parents who empower them? How can we make sure that these kids, who are maybe not even on-line now, will be eventually, how can we make sure that these kids are safe on the Internet? Thank you.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Thank you, Marie. We have the final...
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello, my name is Alexandri, working for the Minister of Culture and the Media and also a representative of Council of Europe steering committee on media freedom and Internet society, as I’m a member of that group together with others in the room.
To give some ideas, because governments that are actually having the responsibility of finding balanced approaches towards societal problems that we have here have a difficult task. I think that is the idea of seeing governments purely as the ones who censor is not correct. I agree that there is not one fits all solution as has been said beforehand.
I would like to fuel in two ideas. First of all, if we have it decentralized as has been quoted here, decentralized ideas about what to protect, how to protect and whom to protect, that is a good idea to send or to gather a lot of ideas. But if you decentralize it, the experience that we have seen also with self-regulatory codes is you either end up having extremist ideas in both sites or both directions, because it is not a balanced and Democratic process in which such rules would then be made.
If you have parents who take over the general rules, you could end up having the very protective and censored near ideas of the southern and northern cultural backgrounds, for example, to give an example. That is potentially not the best ideas, but we ought to work together, that’s clear.
I think what we need is a multilayer approach. We have also in Germany projects that is cofounded by industry, but the government is involved. It’s called a net for kids. It’s providing a walled garden. This walled garden actually, the Websites that are in that walled garden, it is working list, so it gives parents and kids the possibilities of trying out what it means to be on the Internet.
The Websites on that wide list are actually not fueled in by governments or by the industry or by parents. It is the kids who can actually address and say we like that Website. We want it to be in. There is control by media, pedagogies and it’s a bit controlled.
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: I was talking about not decentralized discussion. I was talking about decentralized solutions.
>> Regulation. Exactly.
>> ERIK VAN DER SANDT: Technological solutions or whatever. I think the public should be involved in coming up with solutions, entrepreneurs. If you are on an on-line marketer, I think they will have ideas how to tackle certain commercial Websites.
I think software developers, working for, I don’t know, Microsoft or for a small company, they will have solutions. We are in the Netherlands trying to get them involved, but we are not asking them for solutions. I think there are so many people with brilliant ideas, and we are not involving them enough.
>> ANN KATRIN AGEBACK: Okay. I think that was the final voice today at this session. There is one thing I have missed that we had in the headline. We have not been talking very much about empowerment and how to empower children, this kind of children and also the ones John are talking about. That has to be another workshop. But it is not planned for today.
I hope you got some thoughts, ideas, and I hope you will all continue to work with this very important issue. So thank you for coming.