New EU rules will oblige messengers to scan messages for

New EU rules will oblige messengers to scan messages for violations

The European Commission is ready to propose new rules according to which messenger applications like WhatsApp or Facebook* Messenger selectively scans user messages for content related to child sexual abuse (CSAM) and attempted adult molestation of minors. The project has been criticized by information security experts and human rights activists.

    Image source: alberthbq/

Image source: alberthbq/

After the bill was unveiled earlier this week, it was immediately criticized by a range of groups and experts. According to one of them “The document is the most horrible thing he has ever seen”. Some experts say this is one of the most “shameful” laws, totally incompatible with any free democracy. In particular, the law introduces a number of new obligations for “online service providers”, including app stores, hosting services and all providers of “interpersonal communication services”.

The strictest standards are applied to popular instant messengers. Therefore, after receiving a request from the authorities, the administration of the messenger is obliged to scan the messages of users specified by the authorities in search of materials related to sexual violence against children, as well as facts of harassment – this requires the use of machine vision -Tools and AI systems for contextual analysis of photos and texts. Requests are made by each state’s law enforcement agency. However, the document lacks a definition of exactly how requests are “targeted” — to individuals, communities, or broader categories of users.

    Image source: iAmMrRob/

Image source: iAmMrRob/

Critics argue that such requests can be used to spy on large groups. According to some experts, the bill “leaves the door open to much more general surveillance”. In addition, if passed, the law could completely override the end-to-end encryption system. Although not prohibited in the document, companies must use software on their systems that can identify CSAM content, making end-to-end encryption almost impossible. As EU regulations affect digital politics in all parts of the world, similar regulations could spread to the rest of the world.

According to the representative of the human rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, what the EU intends to do is not to achieve without scanning mass messages. If the draft becomes law, it will violate user privacy not only in the EU but around the world.

In addition, content detection in case of “harassment” requires the use of special innovative algorithms, due to which mistakes are inevitable and innocent instant messenger users are caught by law enforcement agencies. Human rights activists cite spam filters, which constantly make mistakes when evaluating content, as an example of the ineffectiveness of such tools.

* It is included in the list of public associations and religious organizations for which the court made a final decision, activities on the grounds of Federal Law No. 114-FZ of July 25, 2002 “On Combating Extremist Activity”.

About the author

Robbie Elmers

Robbie Elmers is a staff writer for Tech News Space, covering software, applications and services.

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