Child advocates say encrypted messages on Facebook could hinder child sex abuse investigations

Child advocates say encrypted messages on Facebook could hinder child sex abuse investigations

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Tech companies like Facebook are developing more ways to keep your messages private using end-to-end encryption. But does that come with a price?

Child advocates say those changes could stop child abuse investigations in their tracks, by blocking law enforcement from investigating important tips.

More than 55 million reports of child sexual abuse have been reported to the CyberTipline at the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the past 20 years.

Just recently, an analyst at NCMEC identified an infant being sexually exploited online.

Investigators tracked an IP address and police arrested the suspect and rescued the baby, and 11 other children.

NCMEC estimates more than half of its tips like this will disappear with encrypted messages.

“Without the ability to discover on the internet service provider’s platforms where this material is coming from and how we can get it forward from law enforcement, end-to-end encryption would totally disable the national center’s ability to discover and report it,” said John Clark, President and CEO of National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.

Facebook has come under pressure for lapses in user privacy over the last year.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently addressed encryption and child exploitation.

He said the company will still work with law enforcement to catch criminals.

“We're going to work to prevent some of this stuff upfront,” he said.

“Especially around limiting the ways adults can interact with minors. I still think the equities are generally in favor of moving to end-to-end encryption. People want that,” Zuckerberg said.

Child advocates say they respect user privacy, but they want an option on these sites that allows police with warrants to access specific messages between people.

Law enforcement officials in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia are teaming up to demand more access to social media sites like Facebook.

They want Facebook to stop its end-to-end encryption plans.

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