"A devastating blow to child protection": Meta rolls out end-to-end encryption despite experts objections

Facebook's parent company Meta has introduced end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on Messenger and Facebook, which will soon be extended to Instagram. This means Meta will no longer have access to what users send and receive - and it will prevent the company from being able to detect child sexual abuse on its platform.

The move has been branded a "massive backwards step" and a "catastrophic setback for the detection and removal of child sexual abuse" by child safety experts, who have been calling on Meta to reconsider its position on end-to-end encryption for years.

In 2021, we joined a global coalition in an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg objecting to end-to-end encryption and calling for children's safety, privacy and wellbeing to be considered.Screen_Shot_2023-12-13_at_11.04.21_am.png

Meta "rolling out the welcome mat for child abusers", say Internet Watch Foundation

What are the ramifications of Meta implementing end-to-end encryption?

In the period of 2019 - 2022, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received approximately 100 million reports of child sexual abuse material on the Internet. Roughly 80 million of these came from Meta, with more than 80% of these linked to Messenger and Instagram Direct.

Leading authority on children's and young people's use of digital technologies and secretary of the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety John Carr elaborates:

To get some sense of what these figures represented, in 2022, NCMEC received reports of 49.4 million still images of child sexual abuse of which 18.8 million (38%) were unique and 37.7 million videos, 8.3 million (22%) of which were unique. “Unique” means there were no duplicates in among the larger number. 49% of all these reports were “actionable” by law enforcement agencies while NCMEC classified the remainder as “informational”.

Each report could be about one child or multiple children. By introducing E2EE Meta is therefore condemning an unknowable number of children to prolonged pain and misery, possibly even death. The police cannot arrest a child rapist or otherwise act to safeguard or support a child if the initial reports are just not there. Meta cannot intervene to deflect a paedophile or channel a troubled child away from suicide towards sources of help if the company can no longer pick up the prompts or signals.'

End-to-end encryption allows perpetrators of child sexual abuse to trade content without detection. As campaigner Andy Burrows points out, WhatsApp (which has encrypted conversations) has a significant child abuse problem, with organised networks using the platform to share both new and existing child abuse content. Despite this, WhatsApp reported less than one-twentieth of the child abuse that was found on Facebook - prior to introducing end-to-end encryption.

Make no mistake, the consensus of the global child protection community is that Meta has taken us to a child protection cliff edge, ignored the warning signs, and driven the car straight off.

See also:

Collective Shout joins global coalition calling for child protections on Facebook

A Devastating Blow to Child Protection: Meta Expands Encryption - NCMEC statement

Meta says money matters more than children - John Carr

Planned and deliberate harm - Andy Burrows


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  • Caitlin Roper
    published this page in News 2023-12-13 18:13:33 +1100

You can defend their right to childhood

A world free of sexploitation is possible!

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