Facebook’s changes to encryption will only help terrorists and paedophiles

Facebook’s changes to encryption will only help terrorists and paedophiles

A year ago, I asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg not to risk lives with the company’s plan to bring in end-to-end encryption.

Today, I am leading international action to amplify that call and to ask all tech companies to put the safety of children first.

Priti Patel says: 'We owe it to our children to put their safety first'.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been asked not to risk lives with the company’s plan to bring in end-to-end encryption.

Because, sadly, it seems the message has yet to hit home.

End-to-end encryption is a super-secure method of communication which means messages can be seen only by the sender and recipient.

Officials say the change will make it near-impossible to recover online criminal conversations.

Despite mounting concern, the US social media giant has not advanced any credible plan to protect against child sexual abuse and terrorism as it makes these changes.

Instead it has argued that the Government wants to build in new ways to undermine the security of Facebook’s system.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.

We want Facebook to ensure the ongoing safety of its users and to continue to unmask the predators who threaten our children.

And we want it, and other tech firms, to work with us to ensure any changes they make do not give criminals hidden access to young people.

Facebook currently uncovers millions of cases of child sexual abuse imagery and grooming every year, reporting more than 15million already in 2020.

Pictures of the rape, torture and abuse of children who are so young they cannot cry out for help.

The Government want Facebook to continue to unmask the predators who threaten our children.


Facebook also helps crack terrorist plots by finding twisted imagery used to groom people into extremism and violence, acting against 26million pieces of terrorist content between October 2017 and March 2019.

It passes intelligence to law enforcement to help cage the evil criminals who prey on children and the most vulnerable.

Take the prolific paedophile Patrick McDonald.

He incited more than 500 young boys to send him sexual material while he pretended to be a teenage girl.

He was jailed thanks to incriminating content from his Facebook Messenger account.

Or twisted David Sadler.

He was grooming an under-age girl for sex but was caught out by Facebook’s own safety checks.

Facebook should be proud of its efforts to root out this evil.

Yet instead it plans to tie its own blindfold by removing its ability to find the worst criminal content.

This could lead to as many as 12million reports of child sexual abuse material a year being lost.


Life-shattering crimes that cannot be investigated.

Evil predators who cannot be stopped.

Desperate victims who cannot be saved and who continue to see images of their suffering circulated.

Facebook’s plans would end its ability to identify online evidence of children being abused — devastating images of suffering that no right-minded person would ever want to see.

But we must not close our eyes.

We all have a duty to protect our children — to do all we can to stop this horrific abuse that leaves deep and visceral scars that last well into adulthood.

But Facebook now wants to turn a blind eye.

It claims this is about privacy, and that end-to-end encryption is needed to protect against hackers and repressive foreign powers.

But our world-leading technical experts are clear that those arguments are overblown.

And that the strong encryption already in place protects privacy without eroding the safety of our citizens and destroying the lives of children.


This is a gamble with the safety of millions of people that Facebook does not need to take.

And I am not the only one afraid of the consequences.

More than 100 global charities asked Facebook to think twice in an open letter on child safety.

Survivors of child sexual abuse have also spoken out.

Outrage over the threat to our citizens from inaccessible encryption is growing, and I am proud to have galvanised global action.

Today I stand with seven other nations from around the world to call on tech companies to keep our citizens safe.

Together we represent one in five Facebook users around the world.

But this is not just about one company.

We are calling on the entire industry to work with us to find solutions to protect everyone online.

What we are asking for is eminently reasonable and could be a lifeline for our children.

We are not going away until we get the answers we deserve.


The UK government is playing its part in the crucial battle to protect our children, stepping up our action with £9.86million in additional investment to help the National Crime Agency tackle the worst offenders and a new strategy on dealing with all forms of child sexual abuse due in the coming months.

But we are all responsible for our children, and the companies who profit from them and mine their data must also play their part.

I refuse to stand by while any firm blinds itself to child abuse and hides away from its responsibility to victims.

Closing our eyes to this problem can only make it worse.

Allowing paedophiles and terrorists to act with impunity cannot, and will not, improve security.

And I cannot, and will not, accept it.

We owe it to our children to put their safety first.
Facebook’s changes to encryption will only help terrorists and paedophiles
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