WhatsApp, which is owned by meta, has stated that it would exit the UK market if it is required to reduce its end-to-end encryption for users under the forthcoming Internet Safety Bill.
Wired reported that at a conference with reporters, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart described the legislation as the most alarming set of online restrictions in the western world.
“We were just blocked in Iran, for instance. In contrast, Cathcart was cited as remarking, “We’ve never seen a liberal democracy do that.”
“Ninety-eight percent of our users are from outside the United Kingdom. It would be a strange decision for us to reduce the security of the product in a way that would harm 98 percent of users, he stated emphatically.
Cathcart expresses concern that the proposed legislation could make it more difficult for WhatsApp and other messaging platforms to implement end-to-end encryption.
He told reporters, “It’s hard to believe we’re having this talk about a liberal democracy that might circumvent people’s ability to speak privately.”
A component of the Internet Safety Bill mandates the use of “accredited technology” to scan user messages for child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
According to security researchers, such a solution cannot be implemented without compromising end-to-end encryption.
Apple proposed plans in 2021 to check user messages for CSAM, but shelved them in response to security researchers’ criticism.
Companies that fail to comply with the new guidelines could be fined up to 18 million pounds or 10 percent of their annual global revenue, whichever is greater, under the Internet Safety Bill.
There are new criminal offences for manipulating and destroying data, as well as stricter and more expedient penalties for tech executives.
The Internet Safety Bill will mandate that social media platforms, search engines, and other apps and websites that allow users to upload their own material protect children, combat criminal conduct, and adhere to their stated terms and conditions.
“The Bill would strengthen people’s rights to freely express themselves online and ensure that social media platforms do not suppress legal free speech. Former Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries announced last year that, for the first time, users will have the ability to appeal if they believe their post was removed unfairly.