Czech Republic’s Failure to Protect Children Online Raises Concerns

The Czech Republic is facing criticism for its inadequate protection of children on the Internet, according to Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, the government’s human rights commissioner. To effectively safeguard children from online sexual abuse, she believes that technical solutions proposed by the European Commission must be combined with proactive prevention measures. Laurenčíková expressed her concerns during a seminar on addressing child sexual violence in the Chamber of Deputies.

Laurenčíková stressed the importance of prevention as an integral part of education and proposed including comprehensive prevention strategies in the curriculum at all levels of education, starting from preschools. She acknowledged that the current system is failing and emphasized the need for a holistic approach that balances technical solutions with respect for privacy rights.

Criticism was raised by Marcel Kolaja, a member of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party, regarding the potential infringement on privacy rights under the European Commission’s proposed regulations. He argued that the mandatory algorithm-based monitoring of all online communication, including encrypted content, would significantly burden internet service providers, estimating the cost at around 27.5 million euros (approximately 651.5 million Czech korunas).

During an expert discussion, it was highlighted that some significant video and photo providers already voluntarily employ automated monitoring to detect harmful content. However, Kolaja cautioned against the limitations of algorithms, which can often lead to errors in identifying inappropriate content.

Experts also expressed doubts about the effectiveness of monitoring all online communication, suggesting that potential offenders would simply find alternative channels to continue their activities. Veronika Andrtová from the Children’s Crisis Center emphasized the urgent need for society to catch up with the rapid shift of children’s lives to the online realm, stressing that even elementary school children are now heavily engaged in online activities.

The Internet has become an integral part of children’s lives, providing them with privacy that can potentially expose them to significant risks. Unfortunately, responsible online behavior is not widely taught within families, leaving children vulnerable to various forms of online exploitation. Andrtová highlighted that children often struggled to navigate and cope with sexual pressure online and emphasized the importance of accessible support systems.

The urgency of the issue is further underscored by a 2020 Czech survey, which revealed that over one-third of children between the ages of 12 and 16 were exposed to sexually explicit content online, with nine percent of them having sent such content to others. Kateřina Vokrouhlíková, who works on reported harmful content, warned about the increasing involvement of children in directly publishing explicit material, with some children as young as eight or nine years old. Moreover, she pointed out that Czech children’s clear images from public galleries often end up on foreign platforms.

Vladimír Lukáš, Director of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service of the Czech Republic, highlighted the challenges law enforcement agencies face in proving criminal offenses committed online. Lukáš stressed the need for monitoring communication related to harmful content, as having the context would greatly assist in evaluating potential criminal charges more effectively.