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Facebook's plan to add end-to-end encryption to its messaging services receives mixed responses from govts. & civil society

Facebook announced that it would add end-to-end encryption to all of its messaging services in an effort to better protect the privacy of its users. The announcement was supported by many human rights NGOs, noting the need to protect the right to privacy. The US, British and Australian government, however, sent a letter to Mark Zuckerburg, urging him to reconsider stating that increased encryption makes it difficult to monitor hate speech and reduce violence, abuse and the spread of terrorism online.

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4 October 2019

Governments raise concern that Facebook encrypting messaging services could hamper law enforcement's efforts to combat child sexual exploitation & terrorism

Author: Siva Vaidhyanathan, Slate

"Be Careful Taking Sides in Mark Zuckerberg vs. William Barr", 04 October 2019

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, joined by his Australian and British counterparts, sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to abandon plans to deploy strong encryption on all the Facebook-owned messaging services... Facebook intends to spread strong encryption to all of its messaging services in the near future, sealing off Facebook Messenger and Instagram messages from prying eyes (and computers) in the next few years... Security and human rights experts have responded that limiting encryption or allowing “backdoors” through which law enforcement or intelligence agencies could sneak into otherwise secure systems would endanger lives and risk harming vulnerable people... [However] strong encryption limits the ability of services like Facebook and law enforcement agencies from preventing, catching, and punishing those who would sexually abuse children and post video and images of the abuse... Faced with encryption, law enforcement agencies must infiltrate suspect networks or convince suspects to turn over information... [The global scale of Facebook make it] harder for Facebook to patrol its service to filter out noxious content—something the company purports to be committed to doing better in the future... [However, if] Facebook users do less on the regular Facebook News Feed and do more in private groups and via encrypted messages, then Facebook can’t be held responsible for failing to keep its system free of calls for violence, harassment, or hate speech. 

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4 October 2019

Open letter to Facebook from civil society groups in support of encryption

Author: Access Now, ACLU & 110 other civil society organizations

"Open Letter: Facebook's End-to-End Encryption Plans", 4 October 2019

The organizations below write today to encourage you, in no uncertain terms, to continue increasing the end-to-end security across Facebook’s messaging services. We have seen requests from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australian governments asking you to suspend these plans “until [Facebook] can guarantee the added privacy does not reduce public safety”. We believe they have this entirely backwards: each day that platforms do not support strong end-to-end security is another day that this data can be breached, mishandled, or otherwise obtained by powerful entities or rogue actors to exploit it. Given the remarkable reach of Facebook’s messaging services, ensuring default end-to-end security will provide a substantial boon to worldwide communications freedom, to public safety, and to democratic values, and we urge you to proceed with your plans to encrypt messaging through Facebook products and services. We encourage you to resist calls to create so-called “backdoors” or “exceptional access” to the content of users’ messages, which will fundamentally weaken encryption and the privacy and security of all users.

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