Facebook has copped a grilling for dropping news from its Australian service but a lesser known issue could be the social media giant’s most damaging legacy.
Facebook has copped a grilling for dropping news from its Australian service but a lesser known issue could be the social media giant’s most damaging legacy.

Facebook gives sick predators a free pass

LEADING child safety campaigner Bruce Morcombe has accused Facebook of aiding sick pedophiles as it emerged more than 20,000 cases of depraved child abuse could go undetected under the tech giant's plan to encrypt messages.

It is understood Facebook is refusing to respond to letters from the Australian Government over a controversial plan to introduce end-to-end encryption on its messenger service after five meetings in which authorities made a desperate plea not to allow pedophiles to go unchecked.

Bruce Morcombe said he did not believe billionaire Facebook boss Mr Zuckerberg had a "conscience" as Facebook moves to an encryption system that will effectively prevent it from being able to detect harmful content and report it to law enforcement for investigation.

 

Bruce and Denise Morcombe. Picture: Brad Fleet/ National News Network - News Corp AUS
Bruce and Denise Morcombe. Picture: Brad Fleet/ National News Network - News Corp AUS

 

"I think it's inexcusable for a global phenomenon like Facebook to deny legitimate global law enforcement agencies to do their job," he said.

"To assist in child exploitation is the most hideous of crimes and the people at the top of the chain should hang their heads in shame."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton yesterday branded Mr Zuckerberg "arrogant" over Facebook's belligerent attitude in ongoing discussions designed to prevent law enforcement losing their biggest source of child sex abuse reports.

It's understood the company has stopped responding to letters from the Australian Government over the issue.

 

In 2020, US authorities referred more than 21,000 cases involving shocking crimes such as live streaming of child sexual abuse and made-to-order videos to Australian police.

"We tried to engage with Facebook then, and essentially, they've said that their new platform, their encrypted messaging platform, will mean that the number of reports that they give to the national centre in the United States, to report these instances of child abuse each year, will go from about 20,000, down to a dozen," Mr Dutton said.

About 90 per cent of reports to the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children come from Facebook despite 1400 companies being registered to report abuse.

End-to-end encryption is touted for its privacy by tech giants including Apple, which has also come under fire from Mr Dutton, as well as pressure from the FBI in terrorism investigations.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton at last year’s opening of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Pic Annette Dew
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton at last year’s opening of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Pic Annette Dew

Home Affairs Department officials have met with Facebook five times in the past six months trying to understand the full implications of the move to end-to-end encryption.

"Facebook and Zuckerberg himself just would not engage with us, with the Attorney-General in the US and it shows the arrogance within the organisation," Mr Dutton said.

The powerful Five-Eyes intelligence alliance of Australia, the USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand as well as the Indian and Japanese governments have been pushing tech companies to work with governments on end-to-end encryption.

A Facebook spokesman said Messenger would become "end-to-end encrypted by default over the next year and beyond" but a specific date had not been announced.

He said Facebook was committed to working with law enforcement and acted "decisively to tackle child sexual abuse and terrorism

"We have zero tolerance for any behaviour that exploits children," he said.

"We already work closely with law enforcement agencies in Australia and around the world to report and remove harmful content. We take strong action against any user who shares content that exploits or endangers children, including banning the user and reporting the matter to the relevant authorities. Facebook leads the industry in combating child abuse online and we'll continue to do so on our private messaging services."

He said the Facebook owned WhatsApp messaging service, which is encrypted, bans more than 300,000 accounts each month for child exploitation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Facebook gives sick predators a free pass


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