- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2019

Democrats on Capitol Hill accused Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday of mounting a misguided effort to stop Facebook from further securing its users’ communications.

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon took issue with Mr. Barr in a letter sent on the heels of him pushing Facebook to reconsider using end-to-end encryption to secure the communications of people who use the company’s Instagram and Messenger apps.

Facebook announced in January that it planned to encrypt Instagram and Messenger chats end-to-end, effectively making it more difficult for law enforcement officials to monitor conversations taking place over those platforms.

Mr. Barr has argued that the added encryption would prevent authorities from cracking down on the spread of child sexual abuse imagery, or CSAI, and he recently called for tech companies to design their platforms in a way that ensures law enforcement officials are able to access the contents of users’ communications when investigating alleged criminal activity.

Calling the spread of CSAI both a “plague” and a “heinous problem,” the letter’s authors warned that Mr. Barr’s proposal would make matters worse by driving criminals into deeper corners of the internet while simultaneously putting others at risk by making their digital communications more prone to eavesdroppers.



“This proposal will not meaningfully address the problem of CSAI, because illegal content will simply move to the dark web and to foreign commercial providers that are beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, while exposing millions of law-abiding Americans to new cybersecurity threats from stalkers, hackers and other criminals,” their letter warned.

“We share your concern about CSAI and commit to providing the DOJ with the resources necessary to investigate and prosecute the criminals who create, distribute and download this material. However, we urge you to stop demanding that private companies purposefully weaken their encryption for the false pretense of protecting children,” the lawmakers wrote.

Reached for comment by The Washington Times, the Department of Justice referred to recent speeches in which Mr. Barr raised concerns about what he called “warrant proof” encryption.

“By enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield, the deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society,” the attorney general said last month.

Facebook’s services are used by around 2.8 billion people internationally each month, according to the company.

Responding to Mr. Barr’s proposal last month, a Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the company was opposed to building “backdoors” into its messaging products because it would undermine the privacy and security of all its users.

“We believe people have the right to have a private conversation online, wherever they are in the world,” said the spokesperson.

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