Facebook puts kids at risk of grooming gangs by making messages secret, Children’s Commissioner warns

FACEBOOK is putting kids at risk of grooming gangs by making messages secret, it is claimed today.

Its plans for end-to-end encryption will stop cops trawling direct messaging services to hunt down offenders.

Tech firms claim the move, which means only a person sending or receiving a message sees it, protects against hackers.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield says more than a third of kids have had online messages that make them feel uncomfortable.

In a report, she says that millions of eight-year-olds use messaging apps banned for under-13s and almost one in ten has used social media to chat to strangers.

She said threats to safety were “increasing” and urged PM Boris Johnson to honour a vow to bring in an online duty of care, with fines for firms failing to protect kids.

She added: “It’s time for the Government to stand up to the powerful internet giants, who are such a big part in our children’s lives.”

NSPCC child safety chief Andy Burrows, added: “Rolling out end-to-end encryption without mitigations for finding grooming and abuse is one of the riskiest steps a tech firm could take when it comes to children’s safety.”

WhatsApp — bought in 2014 by Facebook — has used end-to-end encryption since 2016.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg plans to use the system across all of his firm’s messaging apps.

A spokesman said Facebook has “led the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect, and respond to abuse”.

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