We have long been warning about the dangers of online child predators at this ministry, and it is grieving to find that as time goes on, these warnings only grow graver.
There are sick and twisted people out there to whom the internet is a powerful tool to exploit and abuse children, and what a recent analysis found about how Facebook-owned apps are employed to perpetuate child sex abuse is positively chilling.
The Independent reported that the U.K-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found out of the 9,477 sexual or illicit image offenses against children from between October 2019 and September 2020, fifty-two percent of these took place on apps owned by tech giant Facebook.
It is for this reason that the non-profit adamantly opposes Facebook’s plan to encrypt messaging, something only currently available on WhatsApp, across all of their platforms.
“Facebook is willingly turning back the clock on children’s safety by pushing ahead with end-to-end encryption despite repeated warnings that their apps will facilitate more serious abuse more often,” Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy for the NSPCC, told the outlet.
Earlier this year, the UK’s National Crime Agency Director Rob Jones warned that Facebook’s encryption plan “poses an existential threat to child protection,” according to ITV News.
“What it creates is a private space where people … can masquerade as children, engage with children, groom them, and potentially develop either coercive control of that individual and get them to abuse themselves and send images to them, or to meet them in the real world and abuse them directly themselves,” Jones explained, emphasizing that this threat level is only bound to increase “as children are more reliant upon [the internet].”
Facebook insists that they nonetheless actively work to prevent child exploitation on their platforms and that they “will continue to lead the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect, and respond to abuse.”
A spokesperson for the company told the Independent that just last week, they’d announced “new safety features on Instagram” which includes “preventing adults from messaging under 18s who don’t follow them.”
“End-to-end encryption is already the leading security technology used by many services to keep people, including children, safe from having their private information hacked and stolen. Its full rollout on our messaging services is a long-term project and we are building strong safety measures into our plans,” the spokesperson also said.
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