At the end of April, 2023, The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) asked Meta to review its use of default encryption on Facebook and Instagram messaging services. The VGT is made up of 15 law enforcement agencies tasked with fighting CSAM online, including Europol, Interpol, the FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It fears encryption as Meta wishes to implement it is hindering its ability to guarantee the safety of minors online.
The VGT cites the case of a US national who abused 52 children, and was arrested in 2021, in particular thanks to “evidence contained in over 250,000 Facebook messages.” “In an end-to-end encryption world, it is very unlikely this case would have been detected,” worries the VGT.
Meta is set to roll out default end-to-end encryption by the end of 2023 for its messaging services, a development announced in 2019, and repeatedly postponed since. The VGT requires new security systems equipped with this encryption to be at least as effective as current detection methods.
Yet according to the organization, this is not the case. Therefore it is requesting that Meta radically improve its CSAM detection abilities upstream from the sending of messages. As for Meta, they are trying to reach a delicate balance between protecting privacy and fighting crime.
“People don’t want us reading their private messages. Therefore we came up with security measures that prevent and detect these breaches (CSAM, ed.), and allow us to take measures against them, all the while protecting privacy and online safety,” the company stated in a press release.
“We remain committed to working with law enforcement and child safety experts to ensure our platforms are safe for young people,” added Meta.