Abuse survivor speaks out on concerns about Facebook’s security

Abuse survivor and campaigner Rhiannon-Faye McDonald has written an open letter to Facebook about her concerns with their proposed new safety measures due to come into effect from 2023.

Facebook is proposing end-to-end encryption on messages on the platform which means messages can only be accessed and read by the sender and recipient. This change is said to protect personal data, however is it protecting the vulnerable; specifically children who often meet their future abusers online?

Rhiannon-Faye was abused as a 13 year old following interaction with her abuser online. It started when Rhiannon-Faye began speaking to who she thought was a teenage girl online about modelling resulting in her sending a topless photo in order to get work. Within 24 hours her abuser, who was posing as the girl’s boss, arrived at her family home and that is when the abuse occurred.

Immediately after the incident Rhiannon-Faye didn’t disclose the abuse, however she was contacted six months later by the police who had been investigating crimes involving her abuser and another victim.

Police investigators had gained access to the messages which raised concerns leading to them contacting her directly.

The new proposed safety measures being put in place by Facebook could prevent the Police from linking the likes of Rhiannon-Faye to an abuser.

Although the Police involvement in Rhiannon-Faye’s case did not prevent the abuse occurring, it is easy to see how in other cases this type of investigating could either prevent the abuse altogether or stop ongoing abuse. It could also prevent vital evidence being obtained and used to secure convictions.

In Rhiannon-Faye’s open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, she suggests that the organisation has not taken into consideration views from survivors of abuse and that they should be involved in the debate to prevent such a platform being a place where abusers  and predators have a ‘free reign’. Rhiannon-Faye said as a victim of child sexual abuse, knowing that tech companies such as Facebook have ways to detect known sexual abuse images and can remove them is a comfort. However, in her view, this new proposal would be taking a step back.

Written by Nicola Aspinwall at BLM (nicola.aspinwall@blmlaw.com)

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