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Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg under fire from UK minister over Facebook encryption fears

Tom Tugendhat said Mark Zuckerberg had made an "extraordinary moral choice"
Tom Tugendhat said Mark Zuckerberg had made an "extraordinary moral choice" Copyright Niklas HALLE'N / AFP
Copyright Niklas HALLE'N / AFP
By Scott Reid
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The UK's security minister says the social media giant's plans to encrypt Facebook messages would allow child abusers to 'operate with impunity'.

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A British government minister has launched an attack on Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg for his decision to roll out encryption in Facebook messages. 

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said Meta would be allowing child abusers to "operate with impunity". 

The end-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and recipient are able to read the message. 

"Faced with an epidemic of child sexual exploitation abuse, Meta are choosing to ignore it and in doing so, they are allowing predators to operate with impunity," Tugendhat, speaking at the PIER23 conference on tackling online harms at Anglia Ruskin University Chelmsford, said.

"That is an extraordinary moral choice. It is an extraordinary decision. And I think we should remember who it is who is making it".

Meta, which owns Facebook alongside apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram, said it would work with police and child safety experts. 

The UK government has been critical of the resistance of platforms to weakening the privacy considerations involved in end-to-end encryption.

Action 'against heinous abuse'

It's proven controversial in many countries as there are concerns from police and governments that it prevents them and the firms from identifying the sharing of child sex abuse material. 

In this instance, Tugendhat pointed the finger at Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta. 

"I am speaking about Meta specifically, and Mark Zuckerberg's choices particularly. These are his choices," he said.

He added that a government advertising campaign would soon be launched "to tell parents the truth about Meta's choices and what they mean for the safety of their children", he said.

Meta argues that people rely on apps that use encryption to keep them safe from hackers, criminals, and fraudsters. 

It added: "We don't think people want us reading their private messages so have developed safety measures that prevent, detect, and allow us to take action against this heinous abuse, while maintaining online privacy and security".

The company removes and reports millions of images each month.

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