WhatsApp Messenger may exit the UK market if new internet safety law comes into force. We are talking about a large piece of legislation that will affect many aspects related to interaction with the web space. Among other things, the bill would introduce a new content moderation policy that is incompatible with WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption for privacy reasons.
The bill would give the UK telecoms regulator Office of Communications (Ofcom) the power to impose requirements on social media and other platforms to use technology to fight terrorism and child abuse, as well as impose revenue penalties for non-compliance. The source notes that companies need to make “max effort” to develop or acquire technology necessary to comply with regulatory authority requirements.
However, e.g Whatsapp, which uses end-to-end encryption, it is not possible to guarantee control over the data transmitted without breaking its promises to users. The company says they are not ready to take such a step. “The bill does not provide for protection through encryption. If implemented in its current form, Ofcom could attempt to enforce scanning of private messages in end-to-end encrypted communication services, defeating the purpose of end-to-end encryption and jeopardizing the privacy of all users.says an open letter signed by local providers and other market participants such as WhatsApp and Signal.
According to the source, the messenger could consider exiting the UK market if the Internet Security Bill is passed in its current form. “Around 98% of our users are from outside the UK. They don’t want us to downgrade the safety of the product and to be honest it would be weird if we decided to downgrade the safety of the product in a way that would affect 98% of users.”— previously said WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart.
With that in mind, lawmakers urged the government to take the issue more seriously. A few days ago, an opinion was expressed in the House of Lords about the possible departure of WhatsApp and other instant messengers that ensure the confidentiality of user data. It was also said that by putting heavy pressure on messaging platforms, the government is not taking into account that such services have billions of users and the UK market is not the main market for them.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the agency supports encryption but it cannot be implemented at the expense of public safety. “The Internet Security Bill in no way prohibits end-to-end encryption or requires encryption weakening services.”‘ the ministry said. However, it was also said that Ofcom could, if necessary, require platforms to use accredited technology or make efforts to develop their own system to accurately identify content.