In the spotlight: Safer Internet Centre Belgium

As part of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) Quality Assurance Programme (QAP), the Insafe-INHOPE Coordination Teams are jointly conducting a set of ten country visits to national Safer Internet Centres (SICs) to better understand what is happening in the Member States: monitoring emerging issues and challenges, identifying good practices to be shared, and harvesting the results of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) policy. From 5-6 December 2019, the Safer Internet Centre in Belgium was visited, bringing together a group of diverse stakeholders and SIC consortium partners at the Child Focus office in Brussels.

The national visit kicked-off with a stakeholder roundtable which aimed to hear from national stakeholders and strategic partners about their current activities and collaboration with the national SIC. For Safer Internet Centre Belgium, the following partners were present:

  • Bibliothèques Sans Frontières is bringing knowledge and information to those who are most in need. Libraries are simultaneously excellent places for personal growth and collective development. However, they are too often absent where they could have the most impact. Because lack of access to information is an important driver of inequality in today's world, Bibliothèques Sans Frontières works in 23 languages in 50 countries across the globe.
  • Unia is an independent public institution that combats discrimination and promotes equal opportunities. Unia encourages society as a whole, and particularly government authorities, public institutions and companies, to combat discrimination and segregation. It also provides support to citizens who have experienced discrimination and is authorised to address discrimination on various grounds, such as race, faith or creed, disability, age and sexual orientation.
  • R.S.C. Anderlecht is a national football club in the region of Brussels. Following a sextortion case, a youth worker of the football club turned to Child Focus for help. Since then, Child Focus has delivered regular trainings on topics such as online reputation and cyber-harassment to the players of the football club.
  • Gezinsbond is a family association in Belgium-Flanders which offers various services (such as publications about parenting, affordable babysitters, and so on) and provides personal advice for families.
  • Sensoa promotes sexual health as a centre of expertise in Flanders (Belgium) and does so with an international perspective. Key issues for Sensoa are the promotion of comprehensive sexuality education, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV, the prevention of unplanned pregnancies, the prevention of sexual abuse, and the integration of people living with HIV.
  • MolenGeek is an open space for young people motivated to develop their digital projects, whether they are amateurs or professionals. It offers coding training for young job-seekers and organises hackathons.

Picture of the staff of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre

Following the stakeholder roundtable, the Belgian SIC, coordinated by Child Focus, with the support of Mediawijs and Média Animation, provided an extensive update about current activities and priorities, highlighting the main SIC website - www.clicksafe.be - which provides informative resources and links to the SIC's various activity lines. Besides a wide range of awareness-raising resources and activities, the Belgium SIC also develops youth participation activities, and operates a helpline and hotline.

The Child Focus helpline was launched in June 2011 with the aim of offering children/young people, parents and the general public advice on how to deal with harmful contact, conduct and content. The helpline receives around 25,000 calls yearly, with the main issues including sexting, sextortion, grooming and cyberbullying. As the majority of contacts come from adults such as parents, teachers and carers, Child Focus is currently in the process of establishing a peer-to-peer helpline, primarily targeting 13-19 year olds.

In 2002, Child Focus created the first civil hotline in Belgium to fight against child abuse images on the internet. The hotline works closely with law enforcement agencies and is a privileged partner of the Belgian police. Moreover, the hotline is well known among the general public.

Since June 2017, the hotline has been fully operational following an active lobbying process which started in 2014. The adaptation of a royal decree in 2016 recognised Child Focus as the official Belgian member of INHOPE and made it possible for the hotline to analyse content hosted in Belgium and transfer content not hosted in Belgium to INHOPE's ICCAM (INHOPE's secure software solution for collecting, exchanging and categorising reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM)).

In 2018, Child Focus received 1,728 reports including CSAM, which was an increase of 136 per cent compared to 2017. Additionally, the Federal Police received about 18,000 reports from the tech industry, of which 42 per cent was officially categorised as CSAM.

Further information about the hotline can be found at www.stopchildporno.be.

Further information about the Belgian Safer Internet Centre more generally can be found on the SIC country profile page on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) public portal and on the national SIC website.


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