EU delays vote on controversial CSAM legislation

20 Jun 2024

Image: © olrat/

A Belgian diplomat told Politico that the EU Council vote was cancelled ‘in the last hours’ because it appeared that the required qualified majority would not be met.

Talks around a draft law that may require messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal to compromise encryption to scan content for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) have been delayed in the EU over privacy concerns.

A vote scheduled to take place on the draft legislation first proposed in 2022 was removed from the EU Council’s agenda today (20 June) according to diplomats speaking to Politico.

One of the diplomats from the Belgian presidency told the publication that the vote was cancelled because “it appeared that the required qualified majority would just not be met” in the last hours.

Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are some of the countries that were expected to abstain or oppose the law over privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

When the European Commission first proposed the use of technology to detect CSAM in encrypted content, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) called it out for being “hugely controversial” due to concerns around mass surveillance, undermining encryption and its incompatibility with existing EU laws.

Privacy concerns have also been raised about the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which entered into law last October. While supporters of the bill claimed it will bring in a new era of internet safety, critics raised concerns against parts of the bill that could compromise end-to-end encryption.

Companies like Apple and Meta-owned WhatsApp have previously spoken out against these parts of the bill, while Signal president Meredith Whittaker previously said the company would exit the UK market if the bill is passed without changes to certain rules.

In November, the European Commission was accused of “maladministration” for not sharing a list of experts that helped draft proposed regulation around detecting CSAM.

The ICCL claimed at the time that “numerous experts” have warned the proposal is not technically feasible, as the relevant technology won’t be mature enough in the next two to five years.

In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that instances of law enforcement requiring companies to create “backdoors” to the privacy-focused technology violate human rights.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic