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NPCC response to Meta's rollout of end-to-end-encryption

Meta has announced that end-to-end encryption will now be present by default in Messenger and Facebook.

National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Child Protection, Abuse and Investigation, Ian Critchley, said:

“On average policing arrests 800 suspected offenders a month and safeguards on average 1200 children a month in relation to child sexual exploitation (CSE) offences.


“There are staggering numbers of reports coming from social media companies with a large volume of them coming from Meta owned sites. However, the introduction of Meta’s new end-to-end encryption (E2EE) will have a dangerous impact on child safety. Meta will no longer be able to see messages from online groomers which contain child sexual abuse material and therefore they won’t be able to refer it to the police.


“Being able to identify the ways that criminals are targeting and grooming our children and vulnerable people online is vital. Not only can this evidence help secure prosecutions but it can also identify victims so police can bring an end to their exploitation.


“By introducing end to end encryption, social media companies are putting the safety of children at risk without providing an alternative, whilst also ignoring warnings from child safety charities and experts. There is a moral responsibility on media companies to ensure this does not happen.


“Policing is not against privacy or encryption in general, however, it cannot be done at the expense of a child’s safety. We know children will always be online and that paedophiles will continue to go to those same online spaces to target, groom and abuse them. We know that the problem is increasing all the time and the introduction of E2EE will lead to more children becoming victims and having their lives destroyed by something that was preventable.


“Our message to tech companies is simple: work with us and do not implement new technical designs that will stop you and law enforcement from protecting the public. It is imperative that the responsibility of safeguarding children online is placed with the companies who create spaces for them. I am also confident that OFCOM as the regulator of the Online Safety Act will ensure that Meta are held to account for child sexual abuse material being distributed on their platforms without the required and necessary safeguards being in place that E2EE will severely reduce.


“Policing will not stop in its fight against those who commit these horrific crimes. We cannot do this alone, so while we continue to pursue and prosecute those who abuse and exploit children, we repeat our call for more to be done by companies in this space.”


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