Law enforcement agencies worldwide, including the FBI and Interpol, are expressing concern over parent company Meta’s plans to roll out expanded end-to-end encryption, warning it could effectively “blindfold” the firm from detecting incidents of child sex abuse.
The Virtual Global Taskforce, a coalition of 15 law enforcement organizations tasked with protecting children from such crimes, pointed out Meta in a joint statement urging tech companies to consider secure protocols when instituting end-to-end encryption.
“The announced implementation of [end-to-end encryption] on Meta platforms Instagram and Facebook is an example of a purposeful design choice that degrades safety systems and weakens the ability to safeguard child users,” the Virtual Global Taskforce said in a policy statement. The officials argue end-to-end encryption, while a sought-after privacy feature for secure communications, could make it more difficult for companies like Meta to identify criminal behavior occurring on their platforms.
“The VGT calls for all industry partners to fully understand the impact of implementing system design decisions that result in blinding themselves to [child sex abuse] occurring on their platforms, or reduce their capacity to detect CSA and keep kids secure,” the agencies added.
“The abuse will not stop just because companies decide to cease looking,” the agencies added.
Meta has indicated plans to roll out end-to-end encryption for messages on all of its platforms – with one company executive once stating the feature would be enabled by default “sometime in 2023.” Meta-controlled WhatsApp already offers the feature by default.
Earlier this year, Meta published a blog post detailing expanded end-to-end encryption on its Messenger platform.
The Financial Times was first to report on the Virtual Global Taskforce’s statement.
The outlet noted that UK lawmakers are currently working on an online safety bill that has drawn criticism from tech giants who allege it will hurt user privacy.
The proposed legislation would empower the UK’s telecom regulator, the Office of Communications, to require companies to monitor some messages for instances of child abuse.
An open letter signed by various tech bosses, including WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart, argued the bill would “give an unelected official the power to weaken the privacy of billions of people around the world” by scrutinizing encrypted messages.
Meta defended its safety practices in a statement obtained by the FT.
“The vast majority of Brits already rely on apps that use encryption. We don’t think people want us reading their private messages, so we have developed safety measures that prevent, detect and allow us to take action against this appalling abuse, while preserving online privacy and security,” a Meta spokesperson said in the statement.
“As we continue to roll out our end-to-end encryption plans, we remain dedicated to working with law enforcement and child safety experts to ensure that our platforms are safe for young people.” The Post has reached out to Meta for further comment.
Meta has faced intense criticism from US legislators over its safety practices, with detractors arguing the tech giant hasn’t gone far enough to protect its underage users from harmful content and abuse.
As The Post reported earlier this month, online safety experts penned an open letter urging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the company’s plans to let children and teen users access its new metaverse service “Horizon Worlds” due to concern about potential abuse.
The Virtual Global Taskforce is an alliance of 15 law enforcement agencies from around the world, including the FBI, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Interpol, Europol, and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, with the latter serving as the group’s chair.
The task force’s website describes the group as “an international coalition of 15 committed law enforcement agencies collaborating to address the global threat from child sexual abuse.”
Source: The Post, FT.com
Metaverse Sex: Revolutionizing Intimacy in a Decade
VR to Transform Adult Entertainment with Metaverse Sex in 10 Years
- VR sex replaces porn apps in a decade
- Multi-sensory VR includes touch, smell
- Ethical concerns in virtual consent
- Metaverse allows global virtual encounters
- Shift could aid lonely individuals
According to Sam Hall, managing director of Mixed Reality Rooms, the world of adult entertainment is poised for a transformative shift in the next decade. Hall envisions a future where traditional porn apps and websites are replaced by immersive experiences in the metaverse, enabled by advancements in virtual reality (VR) technology.
This evolution, he predicts, will be driven by the increasing accessibility of VR headsets, paving the way for a new normal in adult entertainment. The introduction of multi-sensory VR, including technologies that simulate touch, smell, and taste, is expected to create experiences that closely mimic real-life interactions. Hall foresees a significant role for connected sex toys, utilizing haptic technology to enhance the virtual experience.
However, this technological leap is not without its challenges. Hall raises critical ethical concerns, particularly around consent in the virtual realm. The use of personal images and virtual avatars without consent poses a significant risk, echoing apprehensions noted in a 2017 report about VR porn’s impact on sexual expectations and potential for abuse.
Despite these concerns, the potential of the metaverse extends beyond just entertainment. Hall suggests that it could democratize sexual experiences, providing new opportunities for those who may find it challenging to find partners in the real world. This virtual world, limitless in its scope, allows individuals to express their desires in diverse settings, real or fictional, private or public.
The integration of VR technology with sexual wellness hardware is still in its nascent stages, but Hall notes that it’s only a matter of time before these technologies fully converge. He points out that people are already exploring romantic connections in virtual spaces, hinting at the future of relationships and intimacy.
As we stand on the brink of this new era, the questions of how quickly these changes will materialize and how they will reshape our understanding of human intimacy remain open. What is clear, however, is that the metaverse is set to redefine the landscape of adult entertainment, offering unprecedented experiences while challenging our conventional notions of consent and connection.
Omegle Shuts Down After Child Safety and Legal Challenges
Omegle, a platform for video chatting with strangers, has shut down following numerous child abuse allegations and lawsuits. Over a decade, it linked children with predators, prompting legal scrutiny. Founder Leif K-Brooks, under pressure, cites the challenge of moderating content as a key reason for the shutdown.
- Omegle shuts down following child safety issues.
- Platform linked minors with predators for years.
- High CSAM reports exceed other social platforms.
- Founder Leif K-Brooks announces app closure.
- Legal challenges question Section 230’s scope.
- Calls for systemic online child protection.
Omegle, once a popular platform for connecting strangers through video chat, has officially shut down. Known for its tagline “Talk To Strangers,” Omegle became a concerning destination for minors, leading to its closure last Thursday. This decision comes after more than a decade of the platform inadvertently facilitating connections between children and predators, which led to multiple lawsuits and criminal investigations.
The platform has been embroiled in several child grooming cases. One notable incident involved a Norwegian teenager who met a predator on Omegle at the age of 14, leading to her abuse. In 2022, an FBI investigation uncovered a user sharing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) acquired through Omegle. The perpetrator was sentenced to 42 months in prison. That year, Omegle reported over half a million CSAM cases to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a figure higher than those reported by other major platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Discord.
Founder Leif K-Brooks announced the shutdown, highlighting the intensive content moderation efforts Omegle had undertaken. Despite these efforts, Brooks admitted the platform was misused for heinous crimes. The stress and financial burden of managing the site’s content were significant factors in his decision.
A pivotal lawsuit contributing to Omegle’s downfall involved a 13-year-old identified as C.H. She alleged that at the age of 11, she was coerced into sexual acts by predators she met on Omegle. Her case, which bypassed the protections typically afforded to tech companies under Section 230, highlighted the platform’s inability to safeguard young users effectively.
Despite Omegle’s attempts to combat child exploitation, including the use of AI and human moderators, critics argued that these measures were insufficient. The Canadian Center for Child Protection pointed out the inadequacy of Omegle’s age verification process, which merely required users to confirm they were 18 years old. Disturbingly, conversations and videos discovered on dark web forums indicated that predators had used Omegle to target and exploit children.
The closure of Omegle reflects a growing awareness and intolerance of platforms that fail to protect children from online sexual exploitation. While Omegle’s shutdown is a significant step, it highlights the broader issue of child safety on the internet, underscoring the need for more stringent regulations and proactive measures across all online platforms.
Meta Shifts Age Verification Duty to Google and Apple App Stores
In a recent statement, Meta proposed that Google and Apple’s App Stores should take on the responsibility of online age verification for their apps. This move comes amidst increasing pressure for Meta to implement stringent age controls and parental consent mechanisms to safeguard younger users. The company’s head of global safety argued that the varied verification methods across U.S. states make it impractical for social media apps to manage this process uniformly.
- Meta rejects app age verification role.
- Suggests App Stores handle age checks.
- Focus on parental consent, safety.
- U.S. state laws vary in verification.
Meta, a leading technology company, recently emphasized its stance on not participating in online age verification for its applications. Instead, it suggested that this responsibility should be managed by the App Stores of Google and Apple. This position was clarified in a post by the company’s head of global safety and security.
This suggestion arises amidst growing discussions about implementing effective age controls and requiring parental consent for young users on Meta platforms. The company’s safety head stated that Meta is not willing to take on this responsibility, citing the inconsistency of verification methods across different U.S. states. Such disparities make it challenging for social media applications to uniformly implement age verification.
Consequently, Meta proposes that parents should be the ones giving permission for their children to use apps through Google Play and the Apple App Store. In this system, when a teenager attempts to install an app, a notification would be sent to their parents for approval. This approach is similar to how parents are alerted about in-app purchases. If a parent approves, the child can install and use the app; otherwise, the installation is blocked.
Furthermore, Meta suggests that age verification could be conducted during the initial setup of a child’s device, allowing parents to set age restrictions once, rather than repeatedly responding to alerts or approval requests.
Meta strongly supports legislation that mandates parental approval for users under 16. The company commits to developing features and settings to facilitate parental assistance in app usage by children.
Currently, there are no widespread regulations specifically mandating online age verification in app stores. However, some states, such as Louisiana, are enacting their own laws. These laws require users to verify their age through government-issued IDs to access certain websites. Utah, for instance, recently passed legislation requiring parental approval for children signing up on various online platforms, including Facebook.
As more states introduce age verification laws, discussions about extending these methods to other online applications are intensifying. Lawmakers are exploring new legislation aimed at expanding internet access regulation and enhancing safety measures for broader audiences, especially younger users.