Protecting children from harmful online content

The fact that 60 per cent of 9-15 year olds go online nearly every day and access on-demand video services may not be surprising for EU policy makers. However, the fact that during the time spent on these services children are increasingly exposed to harmful content should be an immediate call to action for all.

Acknowledging online risks, the CULT Committee of the European Parliament called for children's protection online in the latest Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) reform, voting on an updated proposal on 25 April 2017. Committee MEPs (and in particular MEP Sabine VERHEYEN and MEP Petra Kammerevert, who were the rapporteurs) advocated tightening up the child protection provisions of EU rules on audiovisual media services and also those on advertising and promoting European audiovisual works. Their ideas still need to be endorsed by Parliament as a whole, however. The European Parliament will decide whether to open inter-institutional talks for the final approval of the AVMSD legislation, based on the committee proposals, during a meeting in Strasbourg on 15 May 2017. The Council plans to adopt its negotiating mandate on 23 May 2017.

MEP Sabine VERHEYEN (EPP, DE) explained that, in the proposed AVMSD revision, protecting minors from content that may be harmful such as violence, pornography and hatred is a priority. According to the European Parliament press release, committee MEPs agreed that video-sharing platforms will have to take corrective measures if users flag any content as inciting violence, hatred or terrorism. To this end, these platforms would need to put in place an easy-to-use mechanism allowing users to report content and be informed of measures taken. MEPs also propose banning advertising and product placement for tobacco, electronic cigarettes and alcohol in children's TV programmes and video-sharing platforms.

The proposed legislation also includes new quotas on TV advertising and an increased quota for European works in on-demand platform catalogues to 30 per cent from the previous figure of 20 per cent proposed by the European Commission. MEP Petra Kammerevert (S&D, DE) declared: "To increase quotas for video-on-demand offers does not necessarily ensure a stimulation of new European audiovisual content, but it is a clear EU policy signal. Such a quota should be achievable and should not be an undue burden on anybody".

Therefore, under this directive, platforms have to react to these issues, working under the regime of co- and self-regulation. Another example of an EU self-regulation initiative on this topic has been the Alliance to better protect minors online. For Safer Internet Day 2017, the Alliance presented a statement of purpose at a high-level event in Brussels at which Insafe Youth Ambassadors and Safer Internet Centres representatives participated.

Through the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) line of work, we have been actively raising awareness on the importance of a correct understanding of the audiovisual media content to which children and young people have access to. One example is the previous BIK bulletin edition focusing on online advertising where we also listened to the voice of a young YouTuber explaining the link between youth entrepreneurship and digital technology. For more resources addressing audiovisual media services and content, have a look at the BIK Resource gallery and the Guide to online services.

For more information on the procedural file for the AVMSD, see the European Parliament Legislative Observatory. In addition, the European Parliament has published a briefing on the AVMSD dossier, explaining the legislation in process and pointing towards the next steps expected.


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