Home Secretary Suella Braverman locked in row with Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg over child abuse fear
- Ms Braverman said end-to-end encryption would restrict the ability of the authorities to detect instances of child grooming
Suella Braverman was last night embroiled in a war of words with Meta CEO and owner of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, after she accused the social media company of putting children at risk.
The Home Secretary said she was writing to the multi-billionaire to argue that his plans for end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct would seriously restrict the ability of the authorities to detect instances of child grooming and the dissemination of sexual abuse material.
End-to-end encryption is a method of secure communication that stops third parties, including law enforcement or the company itself, from reading private messages sent between users.
Mrs Braverman, who has travelled to New Zealand to attend a Five Eyes security conference tomorrow, said: ‘As a mother to young children, I won’t stand by idly and watch this happen.’
Ms Braverman (pictured) said Meta’s end-to-end encryption would restrict the ability of the authorities to detect instances of child grooming
The Home Secretary said she was writing to Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) to argue that his plans for end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct
But a spokesman for Facebook’s owner Meta denied its move to ensure the privacy of its customers’ messages would stop it from taking action ‘against this heinous abuse’.
Mrs Braverman, who will speak at the conference to allies from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada about joint efforts to tackle online child sexual abuse, said that Facebook’s plans to ‘go dark’ later this year should not compromise the safety of children.
In the UK, there were 34,485 offences relating to indecent images of children in the year ending December 2022 and it is estimated that up to 850,000 people pose a sexual threat to children.
There are also more than 400,000 searches for online child sexual abuse material every month. Mrs Braverman said: ‘There is no greater evil than hurting a child. The predators who operate on the internet must have no place to hide.
‘If tech companies such as Meta proceed with plans to roll out end-to-end encryption, with minimal safeguards in place, they will no longer be able to detect or report child sexual abuse material that is shared on their platforms – predominantly through private messages – putting children in the UK at unacceptable risk.
‘Make no mistake, offenders use social media platforms to target and groom children for sexual purposes.’
End-to-end encryption is a method of secure communication that stops third parties, including law enforcement or the company itself, from reading private messages (file image)
She said that in her letter to Mr Zuckerberg she would urge Meta to ‘embed robust detection measures as it rolls out encryption across its messaging platforms’, otherwise ‘the court of public opinion will judge its actions’.
She added: ‘The UK Government is unambiguously pro-innovation and pro-privacy but this cannot come at such a serious cost to child safety. I look forward to his response.’
A Meta spokesman said: ‘The majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals. We don’t think people want us reading their private messages so have developed safety measures that prevent, detect and allow us to take action against this heinous abuse, while maintaining online privacy and security.
‘We remain committed to working with law enforcement and child safety experts as we roll out end-to-end encryption.’
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