Under the bill, the government or Ofcom could require WhatsApp to apply content moderation policies that would be impossible to comply with without removing end-to-end encryption. If the company refused to do, it could face fines of up to 4% of its parent company Meta’s annual turnover – unless it pulled out of the UK market entirely.
WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart has warned that the popular messenger could soon become illegal in the UK. He also confirmed that the company would refuse to comply with UK law at the expense of the platform’s security.
“If asked by the government to weaken encryption, it would be very foolish to accept” – Will Cathcart said to the media.
We feel the same. And very important we work together (and honored to get to do so) to push back.https://t.co/PhP8Iz2GxW
— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) March 2, 2023
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform in the UK, used by more than seven in 10 adults who are online, according to communication regulator Ofcom.
Government plans to detect child sex-abuse images include the possible scanning of private messages. The NSPCC has criticised WhatsApp’s position, saying that direct messaging is “the front line” of child sexual abuse.
End-to-end encryption secures messages by ensuring that only those who send and receive them can read them. This provides the highest level of security, which is essential for private communication. As a result of the above, even the platform owners do not have access to communication.
Tech companies and security experts have pointed out for years that protecting your messages from hackers and other threats is essential. However, British officials argue that this type of security prevents services from scanning messages for illegal content.
Experts have wondered if this is achievable – and most of them conclude that client-side scanning is the only option, but this destroys the foundations of E2EE as messages would no longer be private.
— The News (@thenews_intl) March 10, 2023
At the same time, the head of WhatsApp said – “Based on my own experience, I can say that a similar situation has so far only taken place in governments that wanted to restrict free communication in their own society”.
“I encourage you to think about it.” – he added.
“If a liberal and democratic country asks us for permission to scan messages, it encourages other countries to ask for the same. Also, countries that have very different definitions of what is considered illegal or indecent,” – he stressed.
Author: Patrycja Bodzek-Kurzyńska
Photo: Adem AY / Unsplash