May 17, 2021

WhatsApp has a problem with child pornography | Technology

WhatsApp has a problem with child pornography | Technology

WhatsApp is unable to control the increase of groups that share child pornography. Two Israeli online security NGOs, Netivei Reshet and Screensaverz, documented groups of child pornography for months, according to Has revealed the Financial Times. Following the warning, the Facebook-owned messaging application scanned group and profile names and expelled 130,000 people who shared illegal material. But the problem remains unresolved. After the publication of the information, another Israeli entity, AntiToxin, confirmed that there were still active and easy to find groups:

An Israeli citizen alerted the organizations in July 2018. Since then they have sent emails to Facebook and reported the facts to the Israeli police. To gather information, they stayed for 20 days in October controlling 10 groups. Before, in September, they had already taken the case to Facebook Israel, which erased the bulk of the groups denounced but did not address the problem.

Point-to-point encryption to protect the privacy of the 1.5 billion users of WhatsApp prevents the application from filtering forbidden images – something that most apps do today. It should be limited to the names and information of the groups and their profile photos, which are the only non-encrypted elements.

Encryption is key to understanding the problem faced by WhatsApp. The same tool that serves to protect dissidents or citizens concerned about their fingerprint, serves to hide crime. Facebook can not use the same software that removes porn from Instagram or Facebook itself. If the company reduced the encryption for the most numerous groups to control what is shared, the consequences would affect all users.

But it is not the only challenge to control this illegal activity. In an operation coordinated by Europol and Interpol in 2017, in which the National Police participated, they captured 39 alleged pedophiles who exchanged child pornography in 96 WhatsApp groups. To access those groups, as EL PAÍS explained, "the Technological Investigation Unit of the National Police detected a link in the network that led to a chat group to exchange child pornography" and there was "a repository where the precise instructions were given to access the WhatsApp pedophile community" . There was a specific and full of recesses to enter the group.

Now the access is much simpler. The creators of WhatsApp groups can generate a link that they share with all those who want to enter that group. On Google Play there are dozens of apps that collect those links: "WhatsApp Group Links" is their most common English name. Most of the categories of these groups are about sports, reading (sharing pdfs of books), friendships or leisure activities. But there are also dozens of porn with names as bland as "Group 4023". The phones that created those groups and has checked THE COUNTRY were from Indonesia and Singapore.

Precisely to avoid these problems, WhatsApp limits the size of the groups to 256 people and does not allow groups to be searched from the application. But many other developers have thought that function would be useful.

Most categories of these groups are about sports, reading, friendships or leisure activities

According to statements by a WhatsApp spokesperson TechCrunch, what Has published the entire Israeli document, the app does not intend to downgrade or delete the encryption. The alternative, they say, is that manufacturers add the ability to detect this illegal material in the device at the factory. Another solution would be to increase human control, which Facebook has taken up to 20,000 people. WhatsApp, which operates as a separate company, has 300 employees in total.


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