Endpoint Security , Standards, Regulations & Compliance

EU Lawmakers Press Johansson on CSAM Proposal Drafting

Ylva Johansson Says Proposal CSAM Proposal Was 'Drafted Under My Direct Guidance'
EU Lawmakers Press Johansson on CSAM Proposal Drafting
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Minister Ylva Johansson during the LIBE hearing on Oct. 25, 2023. (Image: European Parliament Multi-Media Center)

A top European Commission official pushed back against accusations that she let American and British organizations influence a legislative proposal requiring instant messenger apps to scan for child sexual abuse material.

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The Child Sexual Abuse Material proposal unveiled by the European Commission in May 2022 proposes a CSAM scanning requirement for mobile devices. Investigative news outlet Balkan Insight published in September a report alleging that California-based Thorn and U.K.-based WeProtect Global Alliance obtained unusually close access to European Commissioner for Home Affairs Minister Ylva Johansson during the proposal's development (see: EU Lawmaker Questions CSAM Proposal 'Conflicts of Interest').

In a hearing held by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on Wednesday, Johansson said the legislation wasn't introduced with an eye to benefiting Thorn, which might benefit from a European CSAM scanning mandate by licensing its CSAM detection technology in Europe.

"The proposal was drafted under my direct guidance, and this is about protecting children from sexual violence. And I feel that it is effective and proportionate," Johansson said. She avoided direct questions seeking clarity on her relationship with Thorn and WeProtect.

She said she met twice with Thorn but did not disclose details on the nature of the meetins, leading lawmakers to accuse her office of withholding critical information.

Lawmakers also pressed Johansson for details on the commission's alleged micro-targeting campaign on Twitter (now officially "X") to promote the CSAM proposal in the countries that do not support the draft proposal.

On the allegations of micro-targeting, Johansson said concerns that the campaign might have violated the newly enacted Digital Service Act will be investigated, although she added that the commission regularly promotes proposals on social media.

"In order to really hold Johansson accountable her lobbying in office, we have demanded full access to all correspondence of her office with lobbying organizations," said European Member of Parliament Patrick Breyer, a member of the German Pirate Party. He added the committee lodged a complaint with the European Legal Service and Ombudsman to look into the alleged unfair influence operations.

The CSAM proposal courted controversy since its introduction, including that it could make mobile devices more susceptible to hacking. Security experts have warned that adversary nations could exploit client-side scanning to carry out large-scale espionage (see: EU's Proposed CSAM Bill Poses Hacking Risks).

At a recently held hearing of the proposal, experts raised additional concerns about the proportionality of the law, with lawmakers expressing concerns that it could undermine privacy and freedom of expression.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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