Insights Child sexual abuse: European Commission proposes to update criminal law

On 6 February 2024, the European Commission published a proposal to update the criminal law on child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. The proposal revises the existing law in this area, Directive 2011/93/EU.

Amongst other things, the proposal expands the types of criminal offences related to child sexual abuse to include livestreaming of child sexual abuse and updates certain definitions to extend the scope of the law to child sexual abuse material in deep fakes and AI-generated material. A new provision requires Member States to take appropriate action, including through the internet, such as information and awareness-raising campaigns, research and education and training programmes or material, aimed at raising awareness of and reducing the risk of children becoming victims of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

The proposal is a criminal law instrument directed at Member States which defines certain criminal offences, stipulates how such offences should be investigated and prosecuted and sets out potential penalties and rights to compensation. This is to be distinguished from the proposed Regulation to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse which is currently going through the EU legislative process (previously reported by Wiggin).  The Regulation focuses on the obligation of online service providers to take responsibility for protecting children from online child sexual abuse. However, the definitions of the type of illegal content and conduct to which the Regulation relates, “child sexual abuse material” and “solicitation of children”, are those contained in the 2011 Directive or, when it comes into force, the law replacing the 2011 Directive. Since the proposed new Directive amends the definitions as set out in the 2011 Directive, by widening them as discussed above, this will ultimately have a consequential effect on the scope of the requirements set out under the Regulation.

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