UK Advises Meta to Think Twice About Encryption on Messenger and Instagram

The UK government is putting pressure on Meta to include safety measures in its new end-to-end encryption plan for Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

Meta wants to boost safety and security for its users, but authorities argue that children must not be put at risk in the process.

Home Secretary Expresses Concern

Suella Braverman, Britain’s Home Secretary, stands in favor of strong encryption for online users but warns against risking child safety. “Meta has failed to provide assurances that they will keep their platforms safe from sickening abusers,” Braverman said.

The government wants Meta to develop appropriate safety measures alongside its new encryption methods.

Social Media Firm Defends Encryption

A Meta spokesperson countered that most Brits use encrypted apps to stay safe from hackers and criminals. “We don’t think people want us reading their private messages,” the spokesperson added.

Meta is developing safety features, like limiting people aged 19 and over from messaging teens who don’t follow them. According to a spokesperson, Meta plans to continue providing more reports to law enforcement agencies compared to its competitors, thanks to their focus on safety.

New Law Adds Pressure

The passing of the Online Safety Bill sets stringent standards for social media platforms to protect young users. The law allows end-to-end encryption, but companies must act against child abuse.

This could include developing technologies capable of scanning encrypted messages, a requirement that companies including Meta disagree with.


Controversy Surrounds End-to-End Encryption

Messaging platforms such as WhatsApp claim that the new law could make them weaken their encryption features.

The government insists that encryption and actions to stop child abuse can coexist.

Abuse Survivors and Campaigners Speak Out

A survivor of child sexual exploitation backed calls for safety measures in a direct message to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “No child should ever have to experience what I went through,” she said.

Organisations like the NSPCC and the Internet Watch Foundation also request reassurance from Meta about child safety measures.

Law Enforcement Pushes for Cooperation

Tom Tugendhat, the Security Minister, said that tech companies have an obligation to help combat child abuse. “They have great influence over our lives, and with that power comes the responsibility to work with us to tackle this despicable abuse,” Tugendhat stated.

James Babbage from the National Crime Agency supports the dialogue. He stated that launching encryption without sufficient safety measures would seriously impede child protection efforts. “We simply ask that Meta retains the ability to keep working with us to identify and help prevent abuse,” he added.

Meta’s Ongoing Plans

The social media company argues that they have worked on safety measures for the past five years. They plan to roll out an update later, offering an outline of the steps they are taking to satisfy the government.

Braverman hopes the issue can be resolved without the UK resorting to financial penalties, “We believe the solution exists, whereby user privacy can be protected and child safety can be safeguarded,” she said.

The government and Meta are actively engaging in ongoing talks to find a compromise that values both user privacy and the safety of children. The outcome of the new law and public sentiment on Meta’s upcoming actions remains uncertain.