For immediate release | Thursday, August 15, 2019

End-To-End Encryption’s Potential To Harm Efforts To Combat Online Extremism

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Decentralized Encryption Would Eliminate Efficacy Of Digital Hashing Methods

(New York, N.Y.) - In the aftermath of the El Paso terrorist attack, it was revealed that alleged gunman Patrick Crusius posted his manifesto online. The tragedy, once again, raised questions about what tech companies can do to curb online extremism. One proposed solution however, end-to-end encryption, has the potential to do more harm than good.

In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that “end-to-end encryption is an important tool in developing a privacy-focused social network” and that the decentralization of encryption “for all private communications is the right thing to do.” But as Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid warns, its implementation “will be incredibly dangerous.” Dr. Farid stated in a June op-ed that end-to-end encryption on social media platforms would have an adverse effect on digital hashing technology, which has been used to great effect in curbing online sex trafficking, harmful digital content, and extremist content.

He states, “This is particularly troubling given that the majority of the millions of yearly Facebook reports to [the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s] CyberTipline originate on Facebook's Messaging services. Blindly implementing end-to-end encryption will significantly increase the risk and harm to children around the world.” Dr. Farid concludes, “We do not need to cripple our ability to remove some of the most harmful and heinous content in the name of an incremental amount of privacy. Zuckerberg has repeatedly expressed his desire to ‘get it right’ this time. The technology exists to get it right. We now just need the will to do so.”