Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has been accused by the UK government of empowering child sexual abusers after the tech firm began rolling out the automatic encryption of all messages on its Facebook and Messenger platforms.
The home secretary, James Cleverly, described the move as a “significant step back” for child safety after Meta said it would introduce end-to-end encryption on the apps. The move means that only the sender and receiver of messages on the platforms will be able to access their content.
Cleverly said: “Law enforcement, charities and our close international partners all agree: these plans to roll out end-to-end encryption without appropriate safety measures will empower child sex abusers and hamper the ability of the police and NCA [National Crime Agency] to bring offenders to justice.”
The new features will be available immediately, but Meta said it would take some time for end-to-end encryption to be rolled out to more than 1bn users as a default option. Users will receive a prompt to set up a recovery method to restore their messages once the transition is completed. Calls will also be encrypted.
The government and child safety campaigners are concerned that end-to-end encryption will enable abusers to evade detection when grooming children and receiving and sending images of sexual abuse.