Cybercrime: More needs to be done to help victims, Brussels conference told

Written by Martin Banks on 19 December 2017 in News

Victims of cybercrime need to be given access to information about how to make a complaint and how to stand up for their rights, Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli has said.

Cyber security | Photo credit: Fotolia

Speaking at a conference on the issue, the S&D group member also said victims should be better informed about who they should speak to if they fall prey to cybercriminals.

The deputy, a member of Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee, was a keynote speaker at a conference entitled, ‘Supporting victims of cybercrime’, hosted in Brussels by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The event was also organised by Victims Support Europe (VSE). The aim was to raise awareness about the ways to better support and protect victims of online crimes.

Dalli warned against careless posting of private material online, highlighting that 6-12 per cent of 9-15 year olds have already been cyberbullied in their life.


She said new EU legislation on cybercrime should include a section on cybercrime victims.

Video testimony of one family’s story was shown at the conference, telling the heart-breaking story of a 15-year-old Belgian boy who, after someone posted his nude photo on Instagram, took his own life.

His mother told the conference that he tried to have it removed but his pleas to the administrator “fell on deaf ears.” In June this year, he killed himself.

“He never told us what he was going through; we had no idea. He must have felt ashamed. The worst part must have been the likes and reactions below the photo. His full name was revealed.

Imagine what this feels like for a 15-year old. He must have thought he would never be able to remove the photo. He must have felt there was no end to this,” his mother said.

The event was attended by representatives from the Commission and European Parliament, as well as from other victim support organisations and social media.

Addressing the conference on behalf of the EESC, the President of its section for employment, social affairs and citizenship, Pavel Trantina, said, “We continue to face challenges in providing support for victims across a wide range of circumstances and in ever-evolving circumstances and situations. The topic of cybercrime is of growing importance.”

The EESC vows to continue working on this problem in the future, Trantina said, pointing out that the institution has already raised the issue of cybercrime in several of its opinions.

The event heard that the directive on the protection of victims’ rights came into force in all member states in 2015.

Speakers agreed that tools were already in place to assist victims but that more needed to be done to help them be better informed and understand their rights.

They included Ann Moulds, founder of Action Against Stalking, which fights for further harmonisation of laws against stalking and its recognition as a criminal offence.

“Stalking is a psychological crime, a crime of mental rape,” Moulds said. She noted that 34 per cent of people who have been stalked have actually been physically or sexually assaulted.

It was also agreed that victims of online crime ran a great risk of “re-victimisation” after their images and hateful comments have been posted across the internet, which left them feeling “tremendous shame and guilt.”

As a focal point for fighting cybercrime, Europol has recently mounted a campaign against sexual coercion and extortion of children called ‘Say No’, with videos available in different languages.

In Germany, one NGO extends help to young cybercrime victims, with volunteers aged between 15 and 21 offering free advice against cyberbullying, sexting, hate speech, fraud and other offences, the conference was told.

Julie de Bailliencourt, safety policy manager at Facebook, said her company had zero tolerance for hate speech, bullying, revenge porn and any predatory behaviour towards children. It has developed lots of tools for security, safety, privacy and reporting and the vast majority of complaints are reviewed within 24 hours.

“The right to be forgotten exists,” de Bailliencourt said. “People need to understand that social platforms are also there to help. We have the means to remove the content. If you delete your Facebook profile, it will be deleted.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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