Tuesday, 05 Dec 2023

Meta encryption plan will let child abusers

Meta encryption plan will let child abusers ?hide in the dark?, says UK campaign

Meta encryption plan will let child abusers

Mark Zuckerberg's plan to roll out encrypted messaging on his platforms will let child abusers "hide in the dark", according to a government campaign urging the tech billionaire to halt the move.

The Facebook founder has been under pressure from ministers over plans to automatically encrypt communications on his Messenger service later this year, with Instagram expected to follow soon after.

On Wednesday the Home Office launched a new campaign, including a statement from an abuse survivor, urging Zuckerberg's Meta to halt its plans until it has safety plans in place to detect child abuse activity within encrypted messages.

A video to be distributed on social media features a message from one survivor, Rhiannon-Faye McDonald, who addresses her concerns to Mark Zuckerberg. "Your plans will let abusers hide in the dark," she says as she urges the Meta CEO to "take responsibility". McDonald, 33, was groomed online and sexually abused at the age of 13, although she did not encounter her abuser on Meta platforms.

The campaign was launched a day after the online safety bill, which privacy campaigners fear could undermine encryption, completed its passage through parliament.

The National Crime Agency, which fights serious and organised crime, estimates that encrypting Messenger and Instagram messages will lead to sharp reductions in abuse referrals to the ​​National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a US-based organisation that processes reports of online sexual child exploitation from US tech platforms, with 90% of those occurring outside the US.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said Meta had not provided sufficient assurances on child safety in meetings about its plans for end-to-end encryption, a privacy-friendly technology that means only the sender and recipient of a message can see it. Meta also owns WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service.

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