Age Verification Pornography Ukraine

Albania

Age verification is a quite new topic in the online children’s protection agenda in the Western Balkans, and in Albania. Evidence from the UNICEF 2019 report called “One Click Away” shows that Albanian children start using the Internet at an average age of 9.3 years, while the younger generation of girls and boys are more likely to start using it earlier, at 8 years or less. On children’s online experiences, the findings reveal that one in five children have seen violent content. Another 25 percent have interacted with someone they had not met previously. And 16 percent have met someone in person whom they first met on the internet. In addition, one in ten children report at least one unwanted sexual experience over the internet.

Evidence from international law enforcement agencies and internet watch-dog organizations suggests that the risks and cases of sexual abuse of children online has increased substantially in 2020, indicating that sexual predators are particularly active in Albania. The various actors with responsibility in the investigation of child sexual abuse and exploitation online do not talk to each other in a systematic way. They often operate in isolation. The police and the prosecutors lack sufficient understanding of each other’s barriers and challenges. Moreover, neither police nor prosecutors engage with internet service providers and regulatory bodies such as the AKEP, to address bottlenecks related to the resolution of IP addresses. Opportunities to work more closely with each other, discuss possible challenges faced by each stakeholder and identify solutions to common problems are missing. Often communications are maintained only through formal correspondence.

New National Strategy

The process to create age verification is at an embryonic stage. Key Albanian stakeholders are looking to the international arena. They hope this will help them understand opportunities and challenges that would further advance children’s protection online. The government’s commitment to protecting children online is high in the political agenda. The new National Strategy for Cybersecurity 2020 to 2025 reflects this. In the Strategy children have a dedicated chapter on their protection in the online world. However, national priorities need to be accompanied by robust investments. It is most likely the next few years will be particularly difficult for children and families. Albania expects to have to cope with an anticipated drop in GDP as a result of the global pandemic.

Age verification would have to be enforced by law. This would be either in the Law for the Protection and rights of the Child, in the criminal law, or in a dedicated law, as in the case of betting and online games. This would ensure that all parties comply, moving to law, from codes of conduct for the private sector and regulators. In turn this would give a more regulated approach.

The Way Forward

There are many potential blockages to creating an age verification regime in Albania. These include understanding the issue, prioritizing it and actively engaging the private sector. It also means creating regulators, investing in technological solutions, and then enforcing them at user or home level. The country is in an active digitalization phase, where all actors including government and private sector are investing in infrastructure, to improve access via greater availability of the internet.

As of late 2021, there is little knowledge of the public’s perceptions on children’s access to pornography and the right balance between privacy and safety. UNICEF’s study “One Click Away” tells us that children report that most of the parents surveyed do not employ an active parenting approach to their Internet use. Parents have a more positive view of their supportive engagement.

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