A Sunday report from the New York Times lays bare a chilling statistic regarding the role social media platforms can play in facilitating child sexual abuse and the spread of child pornography online.
Of the 18.4 million reports of child sexual abuse worldwide in 2018, a staggering 12 million trace back to Facebook Messenger. That’s according to “people familiar with the reports.” Although it’s only one facet of a much more widespread problem, the outsize role played by Messenger is hard to overlook.
Even more troubling is the fact that efforts in the tech space to protect users could only worsen the situation. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wrote at length back in March about the company’s plans to create a more secure platform, and it’s a process that includes encrypting private content on the site.
That could create more problems than it fixes, though. Encrypted messaging provides a level of security to everyone who uses it, including abusers and sexual predators. With that kind of protection in place, not even a platform holder (like Facebook) can view the messages being sent.
That’s significant when you account for the fact that a majority of reports on wrongdoing come from the platform holders themselves. So while most of us would rather not have a social media gatekeeper snooping in on our private conversations, there’s a case to be made that it does serve a purpose.
Zuckerberg addressed this directly back in March. “Encryption is a powerful tool for privacy, but that includes the privacy of people doing bad things,” he wrote. “When billions of people use a service to connect, some of them are going to misuse it for truly terrible things like child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion.”
Going the “no encryption” route carries its own risks, though. For people living under oppressive governments, or who are at a higher risk of being hacked, unencrypted messaging is a liability. It’s very much a “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” kind of situation.
This very thing was the subject of a conference held at Stanford earlier in September featuring a range of interests, from platform-holders to government agencies to activists and academics. An on-the-ground report from The Verge reinforced just how complicated these questions really are. Even if everyone at the conference agrees in principle that child pornography is a bad thing, finding the right ways to combat it simply aren’t easy.
As the report’s author, Casey Newton, pointed out in summarizing one of the day’s big takeaways: “Something can be secure even if it’s not encrypted, and something can be unsafe even if it is.” There aren’t any straightforward answers.
Facebook doesn’t have an answer for all of it, but the company’s position is that it’s well-positioned to develop the right strategies for shutting down unlawful behavior on its platform. That was the gist of a statement provided to Mashable by a Facebook spokesperson on Sunday.
“We compete with encrypted messaging services around the world; and as encryption becomes more and more the industry standard, we remain the service best equipped to keep people safe,” the statement reads. “We are devoting new teams, sophisticated technology and enormous resources toward the goal of building the most-safe, private space for people to connect.”
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Fuente: / Source: mashable.com