Facebook ‘prioritising profit over child safety’ with encryption plans

Posted: 13th November 2023

Child protection experts have fiercely criticised social media giant Meta over its plans for end-to-end encryption, accusing the tech firm of prioritising profit over children’s safety.

Simon Bailey, a former police chief constable who was the national lead for child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, accused Meta of a “complete loss of social and moral responsibility” over the plans.

John Carr, who is secretary of a coalition of UK children’s charities to deal with internet safety, called the move “utterly unconscionable”.

Their comments came after head of the National Crime Agency Graeme Biggar said introducing end-to-end encryption on Facebook would be like “consciously turning a blind eye to child abuse”.

Speaking at a lecture in Westminster earlier this month, the law enforcement chief said it should be up to the government rather than technology companies to draw the line between privacy and child safety.

Meta responded by saying it has robust measures in place to combat abuse and that it expects to make more reports to law enforcement after end-to-end encryption is brought in.

Bailey said as he had seen the scale of online sexual abuse grow, he also saw “big tech companies, like Meta, absolve themselves of any responsibility when it comes to tackling online child sexual abuse”.

The former chief constable said: “Big tech facilitates and, through their algorithms, encourages this abuse to take place.

“In response to what they know and can see as a global pandemic of online child sexual abuse, they have consciously decided to take the easy way out of dealing with the problem.

“Meta, one of the largest carriers of this abuse, has decided to implement end-to-end encryption by default, and effectively stop law enforcement’s ability to identify and arrest offenders and, ultimately, to protect children.

“They are using the guise of privacy to justify their position and in doing so, are continuing to put profit before child protection. It is time their complete loss of social and moral responsibility is highlighted and challenged.”

Carr, who is secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety said: “If introduced without the appropriate safeguards that will allow law enforcement to detect and prevent online child sexual abuse, end-to-end encryption threatens to deny justice to huge numbers of children.

“Children are major user of social media. A great many use Meta’s platforms, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct.

“The design and nature of these platforms make them a perfect space for dangerous people to discover, befriend, groom and sexually abuse children – and if end-to-end encryption is introduced without appropriate safeguards, Meta will be willingly blinding itself to the abuse taking place online.

“Their plans are utterly unconscionable – particularly when there are tech solutions out there that enable end-to-end encryption to exist and child sexual abuse to be detected, reported, and justice to be served.

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