Suella Braverman blasts Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta after it ‘failed to provide assurances’ it will protect children from online paedophiles
The Home Secretary said the owner of social media sites Facebook and Instagram had failed to persuade ministers that its rollout of ‘end-to-end encryption’ can be achieved without aiding internet sex abusers.
Mark Zuckerberg‘s firm has said it will introduce the technology in the name of online privacy by the end of the year, meaning messages – including images – will only be visible to the sender and the recipient.
Ministers fear it will allow paedophiles to keep their activities secret, and could even lead to more children being raped.
Following months of negotiation with the Facebook owner, Mrs Braverman said: ‘Meta has failed to provide assurances that they will keep their platforms safe from sickening abusers.
They must develop appropriate safeguards to sit alongside their plans for end-to-end encryption.
‘We all have a responsibility to do what we can to tackle this devastating crime, and I urge them to work with the Government.’
Susie Hargreaves, of the Internet Watch Foundation which combats online abuse, said Meta was ‘knowingly switching off the lights on detecting child sexual abuse’.
Sources said child sex abuse was taking place at a ‘fairly terrifying scale’ on mainstream internet sites such as Facebook.
Currently, Meta scans its users’ content for child sex abuse and reports potentially illegal material to the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
It passes UK-related leads to the NCA, which last year prompted about 20,000 criminal investigations, sources said.
However, the introduction of encryption will mean private messages can no longer be scanned.
The NCA estimates 92 per cent of referrals from Facebook will evaporate overnight, and 85 per cent from Instagram.
A Meta spokesman said: ‘The overwhelming majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.
‘We… have spent the last five years developing robust safety measures to prevent, detect and combat abuse, while maintaining online security.
‘We expect to continue providing more reports to law enforcement than our peers due to our industry-leading work on keeping people safe.’
David Barrett Home Affairs Correspondent