NIXsolutions: EU Council Withdraws Controversial Messenger Scanning Bill

The Council of the European Union and representatives of the bloc countries withdrew the vote on a bill that would have allowed authorities to scan correspondence in instant messengers. Belgium, which presides over the Council, attempted to put the document to a vote. In July, the chairmanship will pass to Hungary, which has announced its intention to hold consultations on this initiative as part of its work program.

At the beginning of 2022, the European Commission proposed a mechanism to control all messages in chats and other forms of digital communication between citizens of the region. The initiative has now resulted in a proposal to scan materials sent through end-to-end encrypted platforms on the client side, effectively checking all messages regardless of suspicions about specific users. These measures are expected to help prevent the spread of offensive and child abuse content, including both known and unknown content. However, experts warn that this could lead to many false positives, potentially identifying innocent citizens as senders of inappropriate materials.

NIX Solutions

European legislation is formed through negotiations between three parties: the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU Council. The European Parliament rejected the initial proposal of the European Commission, instead introducing its own mechanism that excludes encryption of services. Belgium proposed content scanning on client devices, requiring users to agree to this measure or lose the ability to send photos, videos, and URLs. This initiative has caused dissatisfaction among representatives of the technology industry and European deputies alike.

Future Consultations and Legislative Uncertainty

With the withdrawal of the vote in the EU Council, the legislative process faces uncertainty: one department has rejected the proposal, but the European Commission and the European Parliament will continue to work in this direction. Discussion of the initiative in one form or another will continue after the formation of a new parliament and the transfer of the presidency from Belgium to Hungary. Budapest has already committed to developing a comprehensive legislative framework against child abuse.

The upcoming consultations will not be easy, as the European Parliament has strongly opposed the circumvention of end-to-end encryption, notes NIXsolutions. An agreement must be reached by April 2026, as the norm allowing social network administrations to independently moderate content expires then. Additionally, the opinions of human rights activists, who call for the prevention of surveillance and violations of digital privacy, must be considered. We’ll keep you updated as this situation develops and more information becomes available.