Hotline & Network Updates
Arda Gerkens - Driving Progress and Innovation in Child Protection
Over the past 8.5 years, Offlimits (previously known as EOKM) thrived under the guidance and leadership of President Arda Gerkens. The former politician and INHOPE president made a lasting impact on the hotline and the entire network by continuously pushing for progress and innovation.
Now, she is moving on to a new challenge. As the new chairman of the administrative law authority ATKM, she will be dedicating her time to obligating hosting service providers to remove harmful material from the internet. To highlight her incredible contribution to the network, we asked her to share about her experience in the online child protection space.
What has inspired you to remain such an active actor in the field of child protection?
“As a member of the Dutch parliament, I was invited to a presentation of the high-tech crime team of the police. They confronted me with the issue of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) and asked me what we should do. My first reaction was: Block it! Remove it!”- Arda Gerkens
But the fight against CSEM is more nuanced than that, as Arda discovered Identifying, processing and removing illegal content is not as straightforward. Arda devoted herself to combat CSEM and other harmful content and even put herself forward for the position of INHOPE president. From 2016 to 2018 she governed the network of member hotlines. Since her term, she has witnessed considerable positive changes within the network, including a stronger societal appreciation for INHOPE. “I believe INHOPE should be a drive for innovation. INHOPE should lead the way.” – Arda Gerkens
What are the biggest changes you have noticed throughout your career?
“What has changed is the political awareness of the problem. Not only for CSEM but also for harmful content. The European Union has laid down rules with the GDPR and Digital Services Act (DSA) that have handed more power to individuals who experienced online harm or abuse.” – Arda Gerkens
Increased societal awareness has also introduced a shift to the commercialisation of the fight against CSEM, Arda shared. “I have also noticed that the fight against CSEM is more and more a business model for some actors. The commercial selling of tools and/or databases in order to combat the spreading of images has always been strange to me. How can you make money on the suffering of children?” – Arda Gerkens
What are the greatest challenges you have encountered?
“The new proposed EU legislation on child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The new legislation puts the internet as we know it at risk. Especially the lives of young people. To protect them, we have to protect the core values of privacy and security and uphold human rights.” – Arda Gerkens
As the debate on the new legislation is polarised, Arda sees more opportunities for harmonised cooperation, both outside and within the network. “This polarisation is also prevalent within the network. Which is a shame, because If we would combine our strengths we surely could achieve more than we do now.” – Arda Gerkens
What are your goals for the future of the ATKM?
“I think a Regulator for the internet is needed. We will devote our time in the coming year to developing procedures that keep the balance between an open and free internet as well as the protection of Human Rights. Let us show the way in how to do that.” – Arda Gerkens
She sees a bright future at the ATKM and even more potential for cooperation. “With the ATKM we can combat CSEM much better than we can now. Offlimits and ATKM will work closely together.”- Arda Gerkens
We extend a sincere appreciation for the many years of dedicated service Arda devoted to the INHOPE network and the essential goal of strengthening our efforts to rapidly detect and remove CSAM from the digital world. We wish her all the best for the upcoming step in her professional career and can’t wait to see her progress as president of the ATKM.
The ATKM (Autoriteit Terroristische Content en Kinderpornografisch Materiaal) is the new to-be-established Autority under administrative Law to combat both forms of illegal online content. It will have the possibility to give orders to remove and/or diminish the amount of CSEM across the network, as well as proactively search for the material and obtain information in order to diminish CSEM online. The legislation for this is currently being discussed in Parliament. As of the first of September ATKM will be setting up the process and expects to be operative end of the year.
We will devote our time in the coming year to developing procedures that keep the balance between an open and free internet as well as the protection of Human Rights.'