Facebook urged to abandon encryption plans after child abuse reports halve

·2 min read

Facebook has been urged to halt its encryption plans after child abuse reports more than halved in Europe due to new privacy laws.

The social media giant was forced to turn off its scanning technology that detects child abuse after the EU ruled it threatened the privacy of Facebook users.

The move led to a 58 per cent fall in reports of child abuse to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which passes on the information to police around the world for investigation.

After the introduction of the new EU privacy laws in December, the number of child abuse reports in Europe fell from 246,688 in the 18 weeks before the change to 104,497 in the 18 weeks after it.

The NSPCC said the scanning switch-off provided a glimpse of what could happen if Facebook goes ahead with its plans to introduce end to end encryption of communications across all its platforms.

It means the company will no longer be able to read and intercept messages, as it can now through its scanning technology.

Alison Trew, Senior Child Safety Online Policy Officer at the NSPCC, said: “This staggering drop in reports means child sexual abuse is going undetected and undisrupted while possibly leaving young victims without support.

“This also serves as an alarming warning of the likely impact that end-to-end encryption will have in the UK and why Facebook should not proceed until they can guarantee children’s safety won’t be compromised.

“It’s vital tech firms invest to find engineering solutions to protect children in end-to-end encrypted environments and this is underpinned by regulation that keeps child users safe from risky design choices.”

Now that the EU have reached a temporary agreement, the NSPCC has urged Facebook to immediately follow the industry standard and restart scanning for abuse.

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