3.96 billion of us worldwide use social media – a figure that’s almost doubled since 2015. For many, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s a great way of keeping in touch with others, but there can also be a dark side to social media, including cyberbullying, online abuse, and social anxiety and depression.
With children spending more time online than ever during Coronavirus, many parents may be concerned about their children’s safety.
And what’s more concerning is Facebook’s upcoming plan to end-to-end encrypt private messaging across its apps. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children (NSPCC) has warned that this move could cause 70% of global child abuse reports to be lost.
Chief Executive at the NSPCC, Sir Peter Wanless described private messaging as “the frontline of child sexual abuse but the current debate around end-to-end encryption risks leaving children unprotected where there is most harm.”
What is end-to-end encryption?
End-to-end encryption is when a message is encrypted on one device, and only the device receiving that message can decrypt it. This means the content in the message will be hidden from any other users, and the messages cannot be intercepted or changed.
While there are benefits to encryption, such as helping organisations protect personal data against hacking, end-to-end encryption could make it harder to regulate children’s messages on social media, and pick up on indecent images and abuse.
According to a NSPCC poll, public support for end-to-end encryption would almost double if social media platforms could demonstrate that children’s safety would not be compromised. Many social platforms already use technology to identify child abuse images, grooming and sexual abuse in private messages, but there are concerns that end-to-end encryption could hinder this.
Online Safety Bill
The government are introducing a new Online Safety Bill, which will see social media companies fined up to 10% of their annual turnover or £18 million if they fail to tackle online abuse such as racist hate crime, harassment and threats.
We hope this new legislation encourages social media companies like Facebook to take accountability for the safety of their users and rethink their decision about end-to-end encryption, as children’s online safety must always come first.