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'Child abusers could find it easier to access young victims' The NSPCC reacts to Facebook merger

PUBLISHED: 18:43 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 26 January 2019

What do you think about the Facebook merger? Picture: JACKF/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

What do you think about the Facebook merger? Picture: JACKF/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

JackF

The NSPCC has shared its concerns of Facebook's plans to merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

The Mark Zuckerburg-owned giant is planning to integrate parts of the three social media platforms in a bid “to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks”.

As part of the move, the company is working to switch more of its messaging products to end-to-end encryption, which makes it impossible for anyone to snoop on conversations sent between recipients.

The change could allow users to communicate between apps - for example, a Facebook user could message a friend who uses WhatsApp.

However, this has worried The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Andy Burrows, associate head of child online safety at the NSPCC, said: “The decision to merge and incorporate end-to-end encryption in all three apps means child abusers could find it easier to access more young victims, and detecting grooming behaviour and sexual abuse on these apps will become far more difficult.

“Given that police have already told us that Facebook-owned apps are being used in more than half of grooming offences, Facebook must explain how it took children into account when it made this decision.

“This is precisely why the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is calling on Government to introduce a tough independent regulator for social networks to force them to meet consistent child safety measures and hold them to account when they fail.”

The social network is said to be in the early stages of the transformation and hopes to complete it by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said: “We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.

“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and are considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks.

“As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work.”

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