For years, social media companies and governments have clashed over encrypted messaging. Several nation-states have argued that they need access to private communications to track criminals and foil terrorists. Conversely, social media firms have argued that opening backdoors in their encrypted messaging would render the service useless.
However, Facebook might resolve the encrypted messaging debate with a forthcoming update. The social network is planning to add content moderation features to WhatsApp that will help it clamp down on policy violators. But in doing so, the corporation will open a backdoor into its subsidiary’s end-to-end encrypted messaging.
As a result, Facebook may indirectly bring an end to the age of consumer private digital communication.
Facebook Reinvention Plans
Though Facebook’s leadership tends to make laughably disingenuous statements, the company’s executives aren’t stupid. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team know their platform has to change with the times or become irrelevant. Consequently, Zuckerberg has initiated a redesign of the company’s products to make them more secure, less toxic, and subtler about the ways they collect user data.
Thus far, the company has pursued that vision by introducing a series of updates to its core offerings. Facebook now has a greater focus on in-group conversations and has deemphasized its role as a news source. Instagram has unveiled artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced tools designed to quarantine abusive users and lessen negative interactions.
The corporation also plans to roll out new content moderation tools to WhatsApp. The firm intends to introduce embedded algorithms that will scan users’ messages for prohibited content before they’re sent. Once the program detects clear prohibited language, it’ll ping Facebook’s moderators about the imminent policy violation.
Facebook intends its AI screening features to crack down on the spread of harmful content, and they have the potential to do just that. However, in doing so, the firm is creating a backdoor to WhatsApp’s end-to-end encrypted messaging. Instead of breaking the encoding that protects its communications network, Facebook is bypassing the encryption on the end-users’ devices.
Plus, as Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to interpolate Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, its AI content moderation tools will inevitably be installed on all of its products.
Overall, the firm’s content moderation update will virtually obliterate the concept of user privacy. However, the move is essential to the platform’s long-term sustainability.
The Inevitable End of Social Media Privacy
Last November, Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service called on Apple, Google, Microsoft, and WhatsApp to create a “ghost protocol” that would give it access to their encrypted messaging services. A month later, India’s government proposed banning social media services that don’t automatically block “unlawful information or content.” Furthermore, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer argued that WhatsApp and Telegram should give authorities access to their users’ messages.
Most recently, U.S. Attorney General William Barr complained that “warrant-proof” encrypted messaging services provide cover for criminals and terrorists.
The emerging trend is clear: international regulators have come to perceive private communication apps as facilitators of unlawful action. Moreover, politicians and prosecutors are indirectly asserting that those services’ resistance to transparency is a threat to international security. In the current global climate, lawmakers will probably either force social companies to open backdoors to their services or ban them outright.
By effectively unencrypting its encrypted messaging, Facebook is trying to get ahead of the curve. The corporation is working to create a model that the world’s nation-states will expect its contemporaries to follow. Consequently, it hopes to avoid future punitive legislation that is designed to force social networks to act as public utilities.
Despite its recent record-setting Federal Trade Commission fine, Facebook looks to be an eager collaborator in the global government project of ending social media privacy.