Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more children have shifted to online spaces. This was reflected by the large increase in reports of online abuses from children in Bulgaria, from 9,289 in 2019 to 17,855 in 2020.
National Network for Children, an ECPAT Member, and other civil society organizations working together for children’s rights, have expressed concerns at the recent closure of the National Center for Safer Internet in Bulgaria.
Since its opening in 2005, the Center has been responsible for processing more than 63,000 reports of online child abuse and harassment made by children, parents, and professionals working with children. The Centre also set up a helpline in 2012, offering counselling and advice to children reporting abuses.
The Center was initially co-financed by the State of Bulgaria but was later supported by project-based funding. However, for the past 5 years, operations continued without national funding.
From September 1, owing to the lack of funding, the Center officially stopped processing reports of online child sexual exploitation via its hotline. Collaborations with the International Internet Association INHOPE hotlines and Interpol have also ceased.
With the closure of the Center, training and support for children, parents, and professionals on the prevention of online violence and harassment has stopped. Bulgarian civil society organisations, social workers, and professionals widely called for the continuation of operations for the National Center for Safer Internet in the previous months without result.
ECPAT International supports Bulgarian children’s society organisations calling for the restoration of the National Center SafeNet. Child sexual abuse is a societal issue; combating it requires support, training, and active response. We call on the Bulgarian government to ensure that children are safe online.
- Open Letter Calling Bulgarian MPs to save the National Center for Safe Internet and its hotline – Bulgarian language.
- ECPAT Project Beacon, putting children’s rights at the heart of the EU digital legislation.