German Federal Government Publishes Take-Down Successes of Online Child Sexual Abuse Material 2019: German Complaint Offices Remain the Most Important Source of Information in the Fight against Depictions of Abuse

  • Take-down Report 2019: German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) received 7,639 reports of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM)
  • 97% of all reports of online child sexual abuse material came from German complaint bodies
  • Annual Report of the eco Complaints Office documents successful work in 2019

The German federal government published the evaluation report on the take-down of child sexual abuse material*, CSAM for short, on the Internet for the year 2019 on 16 September 2020. According to the evaluation report, a total of 7639 reports on child sexual abuse material were statistically recorded by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2019, 5,776 cases (75.7 percent) of which involved content hosted abroad. The average availability period of domestic URLs was 1.42 days. The sharp decline in availability periods compared to the previous year (measurement begins upon receipt of a complaint by the BKA) is primarily due to the fact that the response times of the most important providers in this context are usually within minutes.

This year again, the take-down report focuses on the effective cooperation between the law enforcement agencies and the German complaints offices: The forwarding of reported cases by the complaints offices to the BKA remained stable in 2019, despite the increased number of complaints, with an average of 21.12 hours (0.88 days).

97% of all reports of online child sexual abuse material came from German complaint bodies

“The current statistics document once again the successful cooperation with the BKA and underline the indispensable bridging function of German complaint offices as the most important source of information. The eco Complaints Office thus provides a low-threshold and easily accessible way for the population to report content. Any report can also be made anonymously,” says Alexandra Koch-Skiba, attorney-at-law and head of the eco Complaints Office.

In 2019, the BKA received as much as 97 per cent of all references to URLs of child sexual abuse material from the German complaint offices. Only one complaint from private individuals or the public reached the BKA last year.

The 2019 annual report of the eco Complaints Office documents the increase in justified complaints about the depictions of sexual abuse: “Effectively combating the causes of illegal Internet content must be regarded as a task for society as a whole.”

Also the independent Annual Report of the eco Complaints Office for the previous year documents the increase in the number of justified complaints regarding depictions of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of minors; so child sexual abuse material (CSAM) – this has risen by around 75 % in 2019. Nevertheless, a total of 96.33% of all content objected to by the eco Complaints Office could be removed worldwide (not just CSAM) or legalised in another way (e.g. by implementing age verification systems).

The 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. Effectively combating illegal Internet content requires a broad-based approach and must be seen as a task for society as a whole, just as the causes must be considered and addressed.

“We are on a good path in Germany and Europe. We have very high success rates and close cooperation between law enforcement agencies, complaint bodies and companies. 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.” Nevertheless, the Internet industry association is currently 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. 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,” says Koch-Skiba.

The eco Complaints Office has been working for almost 25 years, primarily self-financed, according to an approach based on voluntary self-regulation by providers and the commitment of Internet users. Right from the start, eco has cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the fight against 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.

The success statistics for all working areas of the eco Complaints Office can be found in the current Annual Report 2019.
Further information about the eco Complaints Office is available at https://international.eco.de/eco-complaints-office/.


*) Use of terminology

The eco Complaints Office uses the term Child Sexual Abuse Material, CSAM for short, to refer to depictions of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. In the past, and currently in German legal texts, this is referred to as Kinderpornografie or child pornography, a term that we feel does not reflect the seriousness and harm of such material.
By receiving and processing information on depictions of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, the eco Complaints Office is very aware from practical experience of the unlawful content of such (Internet) content and the underlying offline actions. eco therefore welcomes the currently proposed adaptation of the terms used in the German Penal Code (from ‘sexual abuse of children’ to ‘sexualised violence against children’).
The Complaints Office can envisage the adaptation of the terms going further and also including the definition of the criminal acts of child and youth pornography. From eco’s point of view, this would also better illustrate the unlawfulness of the acts. At the same time, this would help to harmonise the terms used at international level.

You can read the detailed eco statement on the current German draft bill to combat sexualised violence against children here (in German).

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