On 8 February 2022, Safer Internet Day, e-Enfance – a French NGO fighting against children’s bullying and online harassment – launched a nationwide app, Application 3018, to facilitate the reporting of cyber harassment. The application is combined with a dedicated online trust & safety platform that enables faster victim support and more efficient removal of harmful content by online platforms.
The Internet Watch Foundation reported 2021 to be the worst year for child sexual abuse online with a surge in cases of online grooming over lockdown. A recent study conducted by WeProtect Global Alliance revealed that in almost 70% of cases, the respondents, between 18-20 years old, had experienced online sexual harm in their childhood.
These statistics paint a disturbing picture and underscore the importance of interventions to protect children online.
Project “Application 3018”
The launch of Application 3018 comes in the wake of French President E. Macron’s call to governments and other relevant providers and organisations to “stand up for children’s rights in the digital environment”.
The application was created to specifically allow children to report instances of cyberbullying, ranging from inappropriate text messaging to sexual abuse material – all through an easy-to-use interface.
Last year, e-Enfance noted a 60% rise in cyber-harassment cases and reported receiving approximately 18000 calls on their hotline from victims. Victims filed complaints in only 34% of the cases.
Within the first week of the introduction of the new system, e-Enfance saw a significant (i) increase in the number of cases treated (+30%) while (ii) reducing the amount of time needed to assess and subsequently notify the relevant online platform. Given that 62% of children exposed to sexually explicit content receive it on their phones, the app provides a better interface for them to report than the traditional webpage forms.
As we continue monitoring the performance of this tool, we predict a further increase in notices sent through the app and an improvement in the speed of treatment directly increasing the number of content reported to platforms.
As the digital space increasingly permeates every aspect of our lives, from socialisation to e-commerce to education, we are faced with an abundance of opportunities and risks. Both the EU Code of Conduct and the Digital Services Act will have a significant impact on moulding this space to better protect citizens’ interests, especially those of children.
- The Code of Conduct – a voluntary mechanism agreed upon by Meta, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Dailymotion and Snapchat, to name a few – outlined the commitments taken by platforms about tackling illegal hate speech online while facilitating freedom of expression.
- The Digital Services Act builds on this and details the framework needed to facilitate the processing of notices to platforms about illegal and/or harmful content online. The new regulation also institutionalises the role of ‘trusted flaggers’ – giving them both increased powers to notify content to online services providers as well as additional obligations to produce annual transparency reports and audit trails. e-Enfance is such a trusted flagger, the largest nationwide one in France focusing on children’s safety and well-being.
To protect children online, responsibility and compliance will be needed from every actor and stakeholder involved. Upcoming regulations impose new reporting obligations to trusted flaggers requiring them to update their existing report management processes enabling transparency reporting and the production of audit trails. The platform used by e-Enfance tackles all these requirements while leveraging innovative and highly secure digital and AI solutions, to achieve a compliant and safe environment for all.
We invite everyone, civil society, online platforms, regulators and governments, to join us in building a digital world that is safe and beneficial for all, especially children.
by Louis-Victor de Franssu,Toshali Sengupta