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Facebook to address child sexual exploitation-encryption concerns

By , ITWeb senior news journalist.
Africa , 19 May 2020

Facebook’s shareholders will next week make a resolution regarding mounting public concerns about how their decision to introduce end-to-end encryption could promote online child sexual exploitation on the social media platform.

In March last year, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the world’s biggest social media site would apply end-to-end encryption by default, across its platforms Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, to ensure strong protection for its over one billion users.

While the encryption will protect users from hackers and criminals, the announcement was met with an uproar from child protection organisations, which expressed concerns that end-to-end encryption could increase child abuse risks on the platform and provide perpetrators with a place to hide.

Facebook’s shareholders and safety experts will hold a media briefing tomorrow, explaining the case for a proxy resolution that will be voted on during Facebook’s annual general meeting on 27 May.

Facebook is already the world’s number one online hub for child sexual abuse material, with thousands of vulnerable children targeted daily on the social networking site.

An open letter signed by 129 non-profit organisations and safety advocates around the world urges Zuckerberg to halt encryption plans over child abuse risks, until Facebook can adequately address concerns that the move will be used as a vehicle for child abuse and undermine efforts to catch sexual offenders.

“We urge you to recognise and accept that an increased risk of child abuse being facilitated on or by Facebook is not a reasonable trade-off to make,” said the letter led by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 200 million children are sexually abused each year, with much of that abuse being captured and distributed digitally online, where children are victimised.

Call for blood donors

Meanwhile, Facebook yesterday announced a partnership with the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) and the Western Cape Blood Service to enable its South African users to sign up as blood donors on the platform.

Facebook has, since the launch of its blood donation initiative in 2017, partnered with blood donation centres around the world, with more than 60 million people having signed up to be blood donors.

According to SANBS, the partnership comes at a crucial time, as SA starts to see a significant drop in blood donations, as a result of people staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, despite health institutions like the WHO saying it is still safe to donate blood.

South African Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65 can sign up to be blood donors on Facebook by going to Blood Donations in the About section of their profile.

Users are able to see requests and opportunities to donate to over 80 blood donation sites in SA, via their mobile devices.

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