EU politicians approve crackdown on Internet violence

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Cyber-bullying and child pornography will be targeted in a 55 million euro (44 million pound) scheme agreed by European Union politicians on Wednesday.

A generic picture of a woman in an office using a computer mouse. REUTERS/Catherine Benson

The European Commission’s “Safer Internet” proposal from 2009 to 2013 aims to improve safety for children surfing the Internet, promote public awareness and create national centres for reporting illegal online content.

European politicians are under increasing pressure to prevent the Internet becoming a haven for crime.

German police said in August they were investigating around 1,000 people suspected of having downloaded child pornography after they discovered a website showing the sexual abuse of two young girls.

And last month, a game in which players kill school students was pulled from a Finnish children’s gaming site, one week after 10 were gunned down in the country’s worst school shooting.

“The most important part of the programme is to establish a knowledge base by bringing together researchers engaged in child safety online at European level,” said Romanian Conservative Csaba Sogor.

“We foresee contact points and hotlines for reporting online illegal content and abusive conduct.”

Sogor cited a Eurobarometer survey that he said showed 74 percent of children aged 12 to 15 surfed the Internet for at least three hours a day, and nearly all had viewed pornography.

EU politicians backed an amended version of the Commission’s proposal with increased emphasis on some new problems on the World Wide Web, such as harassment and the distribution of violent video clips.

The amended proposals were adopted with 672 votes in favour and nine against, and are expected to be swiftly approved by EU member states.

Reporting by Pete Harrison