Fight Against Illegal Internet Content – „We are on a Good Path in Europe

For more than 20 years, the eco Complaints Office has been effectively combatting illegal online content. Alexandra Koch-Skiba, Head of the eco Complaints Office, is convinced that the successful cooperation between companies, complaints offices and law enforcement agencies will become increasingly relevant in the future.

How does the eco complaints office work?

The eco Complaints Office has been working for almost 25 years according to an approach based on voluntary self-regulation by providers and the engagement of Internet users. We are aiming for both: a swift removal of illegal content and making prosecution possible by forwarding illegal content to the respective law enforcement agency, too. Right from the start, eco has cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the fight against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and other illegal Internet content. If desired, a report can also be made anonymously to the eco Complaints Office and is therefore also a favoured approach for people who have reservations about contacting the police directly.

For hotlines to work effectively, it is also important for them to be well connected worldwide. The Internet knows no state borders. As such, the eco Complaints Office works at both the national and international levels together with a large number of parties, promotes cooperation, and engages in committees and initiatives. In addition, eco is one of the founding members of INHOPE, the international umbrella association of hotlines.

Which successes could the eco complaint office achieve so far?

We are on a good path in Germany and Europe. We have very high success rates. In 2019 we’ve registered the highest number of justified complaints in the history of the Complaints Office. This is an increase of over 50% compared to the previous year. We were able to successfully take action against prohibited content in around 95% of cases – and we achieved this worldwide, despite having our home turf in Germany.

A large proportion of justified complaints once again concerned depictions of the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of minors, with the number of reports rising by around 75% in 2019. This clearly high-lights just how relevant the Complaints Office is. What holds equal weight is the cooperation with partner hotlines, law enforcement agencies and companies in other countries.

In which ways does the eco Complaints Office contribute in political decision making processes?

The eco Complaints Office accompanies and monitors political issues and legislative processes at national and international levels. The hotline work at international level means that we are always very much in tune with world political events – here we closely monitor processes and can thus immediately recognize and react to new developments.

Currently, the Internet industry association is observing with concern the efforts at national and European level to tighten up existing laws and to oblige companies to take further measures, including proactive measures such as upload controls. We appeal to the legislators to reconsider these ideas thoroughly. Companies are doing a lot and are also taking preventive measures in the fight against depictions of sexual abuse of minors on a voluntary basis. Existing and functioning  measures should not be counteracted.

It is also questionable to call for a new regulation on blanket data retention, although the pending legal proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice have not yet been concluded. But in the end, a new regulation based on unclear, even shaky ground will not help anyone. Nor does it help law enforcement, which is essential to get to the root of the problem and combat crime on the Internet in the long term.

Alexandra Koch-Skiba