Meta’s WhatsApp is threatening to leave the UK if the government passes the Online Safety Bill, saying it will essentially eliminate its encryption methods. Alongside its rival company Signal and five other apps, the company said that, by passing the bill, users will no longer be protected by end-to-end encryption, which ensures no one but the recipient has access to sent messages.
The “Online Safety Bill” was originally proposed to criminalize content encouraging self-harm posted to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, but was amended to more broadly focus on illegal content related to adult and child safety. Although government officials said the bill would not ban end-to-end encryption, the messaging apps said in an open letter, “The bill provides no explicit protection for encryption.”
It continues, “If implemented as written, could empower OFCOM [the Office of Communications] to try to force the proactive scanning of private messages on end-to-end encrypted communication services, nullifying the purpose of end-to-end encryption as a result and compromising the privacy of all users.”
“In short, the bill poses an unprecedented threat to the privacy, safety, and security of every UK citizen and the people with whom they communicate around the world while emboldening hostile governments who may seek to draft copycat laws.”
Signal said in a Twitter post that it will “not back down on providing private, safe communications,” as the open letter urges the UK government to reconsider the way the bill is currently laid out. Both companies have stood by their arguments, stating they will discontinue the apps in the UK rather than risk weakening their current encryption standards.
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