On the Latest Facebook Messenger Conspiracy Theory

[context: I just posted this to a maillist that I participate in]

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Germany FTW

By now I would have expected someone on [this group] to have picked-up and excitedly posted the latest Facebook conspiracy theory: some chap called Kalev Leetaru at Forbes, who is serially:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2019/07/26/the-encryption-debate-is-over-dead-at-the-hands-of-facebook/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2019/05/28/facebook-is-already-working-towards-germanys-end-to-end-encryption-backdoor-vision/

…pushing the theory that a video about Facebook’s newsfeed moderation and spam/hate/violence-detection:

https://developers.facebook.com/videos/2019/applying-ai-to-keep-the-platform-safe/

…he claims presages the drilling of holes in end-to-end encryption.

Apparently because Germany, since Germany is far more influential upon Facebook than, say, America is.

I believe the above to be not merely bullshit, but actually arrant bullshit of the highest creative order; however I am not going to bother making that argument at length because I know there are some lovely folk (you know who you are) on this list who will run with any anti-Facebook fairy tale that is sufficiently exciting, on the mere principle of “no smoke without fire”.

But I will ask you to consider this hypothetical: if you are Facebook and the entire world is mindlessly braying that you are certainly going to “backdoor” encryption, then how hard must it be to *not* do that? As opposed to adopting the “might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” approach of “well, we’re never going to convince anyone, anyway, so we might as well make law enforcement happy and keep some childen safe and stop some terrorists.”

I have personal experience in this space:

https://lists.torproject.org/pipermail/tor-talk/2018-September/044494.html

…where Facebook security and safety execs were considering blocking access to FB from the Tor network because nothing but hate ever came out of it. I managed to turn that one around (see link above) and now Tor has an official RFC, has SSL certificates, and a bunch of other stuff with Facebook’s help.

So, here’s my pre-emptive finger wag: Civil Society’s pack mentality can make us our own worst enemies. If we go around repeating one man’s Germanic conspiracy theory, we may doom ourselves to precisely what we fear. Instead, we should — we must — take steps to constructively demand what we actually want: End to End Encryption which is worthy of the name.

— alec

Written by

Security Researcher. Recovering Cynic.

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