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Meta Delays Encrypted Messages on Instagram and Facebook

The owner of Facebook and Instagram is delaying plans to encrypt users’ messages until 2023 amid warnings from child safety campaigners that its proposals would shield abusers from detection. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire has been under pressure to abandon its encryption plans, which the UK Home Secretary described as unacceptable.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has said private messaging is the “frontline of child sexual abuse online” because it prevents law enforcement, and tech platforms, from seeing messages by ensuring that only the sender and recipient can view their content – a process known as end-to-end encryption.The head of safety at Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, announced that the encryption process would occur in 2023. The company had previously said the change would happen in 2022 at the earliest.

Meta already uses end-to-end encryption on its WhatsApp messaging service and plans to extend that to its Messenger and Instagram apps in 2022. It already has encrypted voice and video calls on Facebook Messenger. People expect their private communications to be secure and to only be seen by the people they’ve sent them to – not hackers, criminals, overreaching governments, or even the people operating the services they’re using

Meta’s apps are used by 2.8 billion people every day. The tech industry made more than 21m referrals of child sexual abuse identified on its platforms globally to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2020. More than 20m of those reports were from Facebook.

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