Estonian President to Paris Peace Forum: Crucial minors safe in cyberspace

President of Estonia Alar Karis.
President of Estonia Alar Karis. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia has joined France in setting up an initiative which will make the internet safer for minors, while protecting their rights, and involving major tech giants like Amazon and Instagram alongside the United Nations, and various other organizations.

"Everything starts with education," the president said Friday, speaking at a high-level event on the protection of children in cyberspace which was held in parallel with French NGO the Paris Peace Forum.

The Estonian head of state said that while the Internet supports innovation and digitization, which he called positive things, both come with inherent risks, he added, especially to the young.

"We must do everything within our power to protect the vulnerable in cyberspace. Through education and training, we must raise the level of awareness of the threats posed by the Internet," the president went on.

A "laboratory" which will be tasked with selecting, assessing, developing and implementing solutions that address children's safety on the Internet will on an annual basis choose projects to evaluate, while its expert group will outline the results at the annual Paris Peace Forum.

Confirmation of children's ages while using the Internet were the foremost concerns, along with protection of children's privacy in the distribution of content online, harassment and cyber-bullying, digital skills and parental support.

Online giants Amazon, Dailymotion, Google, Instagram, Meta, Microsoft, Snapchat, Twitter, Qwant and TikTok are all to be involved in the lab's work, joining the UN, UNICEF and the civil society organizations Save the Children, WeProtect, E-enfance, RespectZone and Point de Contact

The roundtable led by President Emmanuel Macron was held in the Élysée Palace Friday, presenting the laboratory as a joint French, Estonian, Argentinian and New Zealand initiative whose work would involve the input of representatives of a wide range of countries, NGOs, research institutes and Internet giants.

The idea arose from the success of the Christchurch Call initiative, which was launched in order to detect and block terrorist content online, in the wake of the 2019 terror attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of that name.

France has proposed the experimental lab be established, comprising a wide variety of experts, NGOs, private companies, countries and public law agencies to be involved in the issue.

President Karis also proposed agreeing on key elements for the development of coordinated training and handbooks, since, he said, the opportunities and risks presented by the Internet are in large part universal, adding that a unified approach would promote the training of new teachers and teacher exchanges.

"Estonia is working closely with other countries in implementing programmes needed for the protection of children on the Internet, and we look forward to the ideas the lab will come up with in that regard," the president added.

President Karis also provided an overview of Estonian initiatives designed to promote responsible online behavior and protection against threats, highlighting the Lasteabi children's helpline, the project "Targalt internetis" ("Smartly on the Web") and the online police officer service (Veebipolitseinikud) as examples of these.

The Paris Peace Forum is a French non-profit organization created in March 2018 which hosts an annual gathering of world leaders and heads of international organizations, civil society and the private sector, examining global governance issues in a way which mirrors that of economic and financial issues at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, and security issues at the Munich Security Conference.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia

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