European Union: Which lobby organizations are behind the plans for chat control?

Stop - Pixabay[German]The European Union (EU) is planning to surveillance of chats of EU citizens without any reason. There is widespread opposition from civil liberties movements and warning from experts. Though deliberations on chat control were recently removed from the agenda of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States, and the timetable for its introduction is wobbling. Now, an investigative research has revealed unpalatable details of who is behind the "NGO" child protection campaign "Pro Chat Control". Behind the Non Government Organization (NGO) is an influential network consisting of law enforcement officials from the US and UK, lobbying and PR agencies, and PR strategists. The NGO is funded with millions of euros of foreign money to enforce warrantless surveillance of citizens via chat control in the EU.


The whole thing has now become public – I came across this fact via the following tweet. Zeit Online, BalkanInsight and other European media have investigated and uncovered a whole lobby network. The findings about the lobby network were obtained from leaked documents and EU Commission internals. Foreign IT and AI companies, together with foundations, NGOs, governments, security agencies and PR agencies, have been lobbying for so-called chat control in the EU for years and at the cost of millions of US dollars.

It was known that the US actor Ashton Kutcher lobbies for chat control with his organization Thorn, with Kutcher recently resigning from the top of the organization. In the background, however, the network is much larger. Internal documents of the EU Commission show that EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ylva Johansson (EU Commissioner for Home Affairs) have been very closely advised by Thorn.

Officially, the Thorn is considered a non-profit organization, but behind the scenes this organization also sells the software Safer. The software is supposed to detect depictions of child abuse with the help of so-called artificial intelligence. Investigations revealed that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is one of its customers. According to Zeit, they paid more than four million US dollars for the software licenses. And the EU chat control would be the next big order for the provider.

High-profile lobbyists (including the lobbying firm FGS Global) are active at Thorn – the costs amounted to 600,000 euros in 2022 (source: Zeit Online). Representatives of the PR firm attended expert meetings on Thorn's behalf. The EU Commission enabled Thorn to be present at important decision-making meetings on several occasions, according to reports. In addition, there was constant mail contact.

Another lobby group is the organization WeProtect Global Alliance, founded in 2016, which, according to the research association, emerged from two government initiatives. The government-affiliated institution, also includes companies, German site states:


According to the research, government representatives and security authorities sit on the organization's board, and its members include not only child protection organizations, but also all the major Internet companies and numerous governments. Particularly piquant: Antonio Labrador Jimenez is a member of the organization. At the same time, he is a high-ranking employee of the Directorate-General for Home Affairs (DG Home) at the EU Commission, where he is responsible for the controversial legislative initiative.

Zeit Online describes WeProtect as a rallying point for all forces that see the monitoring of all communications as a useful means of combating abusive images. WeProtect board member and funder is Douglas Griffiths, president of the Oak Foundation. The latter has poured more than $24 million into various organizations such as Thorn and ECPAT for lobbying around chat control since 2019, according to BalkanInsight. writes that the aim of this network is to set a precedent for other governments with chat control in the EU. Security agencies that are interested in chat control are also in on the act. Europol attended a meeting of the Commission in 2022, but was told "that given the many sensitivities around the proposal, the security agency needs to be realistic with expectations."

The EU Data Protection Supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiorowski, had already warned EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in 2020 about the plans for warrantless chat monitoring and the associated risks. For Wiewiorowski, "the Rubicon" in terms of mass surveillance of EU citizens has long been crossed with the plans. Chat control, he said, would fundamentally change the use of the Internet and digital communication as we know it today.

Johansson then knew only to counter in a 2021 speech: The data protectionists were very loud, but someone had to speak for the "abused children", and then started to push the corresponding plans, in association with the above lobby organizations. And for the faction "children must be protected" – no one disagrees with that, but the plans of the EU Commission do go further – everyone is to be monitored in their Internet use and digital communication without any reason.

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