UK to work ‘constructively’ with Meta over encryption and online safety

LONDON (Reuters) -British interior minister Suella Braverman said she wanted to work constructively with Facebook-owner Meta over the issue of end-to-end encryption on Instagram and Facebook Messenger and the danger it could pose to children.

The government has urged Meta not to roll out encryption on those two platforms without safety measures to protect children from sexual abuse.

“My call to Meta is to work with us more constructively to roll out end-to-end encryption with robust safety measures because what they’re proposing at the moment will make Facebook and Instagram Direct (messages) safe havens for paedophiles,” she told the BBC.

Meta, whose WhatsApp platform already encrypts messages, has said encryption can help keep users safe from hackers, fraudsters and criminals.

It is planning to provide an update later on Wednesday as to the measures it is taking to satisfy the government, such as restricting people over 19 from messaging teens who do not follow them and using technology to identify malicious behaviour.

Braverman said she believed the pair would be able to resolve their difficulties without Britain having to impose financial penalties on Meta under a new law.

“We want to encourage them to adopt the technological solution. We believe the solution exists, whereby user privacy can be protected and child safety can be safeguarded,” she said on Times Radio.

The government said it has been asking Meta to present evidence of how they will safeguard children but that was not yet forthcoming and it continued to engage with the company.

Social media platforms will face tougher requirements to protect children from accessing harmful content when the Online Safety Bill passed by parliament on Tuesday becomes law.

End-to-end encryption is a bone of contention between companies and the government in the new law.

“If necessary, we will have to use our powers in law,” Braverman said. “We don’t want to get to that point.”

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by William James and James Davey)