Global coalition urges Mark Zuckerberg to halt privacy plans.
A global coalition of child protection organisations has told Mark Zuckerberg not to blindfold himself to child sex abuse on Facebook’s platforms.
In a letter to the social media platform’s founder, 129 international organisations and academics said Facebook’s plans to encrypt messages risks more serious and sustained sexual abuse on its platforms.
Experts from 102 countries signed the letter, asking Zuckerberg to halt the encryption plans until he can guarantee children’s safety won’t be compromised.
The letter, coordinated by the NSPCC, warns that encryption would damage Facebook’s ability to identify and disrupt grooming behaviour on its platforms and allow abusers to target children behind closed doors.
It goes on to state that Facebook has failed to address concerns already raised by child protection organisations about encryption.
In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which the NCA estimates led to 3,000 children being safeguarded in the UK alone.
NCMEC estimates that end-to-end encryption could mean 70% of reports being lost – 12 million a year. The NSPCC claims this risks Facebook becoming a one-stop grooming shop and Zuckerberg himself admitted that his plans would protect the “privacy of people doing bad things”.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “Facebook may be happy to shut their eyes to abuse but they can’t close their ears to this unanimous concern shown by international experts.
“Mark Zuckerberg has a choice whether to allow sexual abuse to soar on his sites or listen to those from all over the world asking him to rethink how to implement encryption without putting children at risk.
“In its current form encryption would breach Facebook’s duty of care for children so the UK Government must ensure a new regulator has the power to hold them financially and criminally accountable.”
The child protection coalition is now calling on Facebook to ensure end-to-end encryption does not inhibit their ability to scan for child abuse images and identify and disrupt abuse.
The social media site has also been urged to embed a voluntary duty of care to protect children in its design decisions on encryption, and to share data with governments and child protection experts.
UK signatories to the letter were the NSPCC, Stop It Now!, John Carr (Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety), Barnardo’s, 5 Rights, Coram BAAF and Kidscape.