back to article You want us to think of the children? Couldn't agree more

If your cranky uncle was this fixated about anything, you'd always be somewhere else at Christmas. Yet here we are again. Europol has been sounding off at Meta for harming children. Not for the way it's actually harming children, but because – repeat after me – end-to-end encryption is hiding child sexual abuse material from the …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    "That's where decisions should be made. If the industry commits to doing this to the best of its abilities, in consultation with lawmakers, activists, parents, and children, then far worse options will be avoided for the good of all."

    The first problem that you have to solve is to get parents back to parenting, that's not an IT problem, it's a responsibility problem.

    "Oh, and did we say? Stop those toxic algorithms."

    Those algorithms do exist, META and the Porn Industry have already admitted to such and yet they continue to procède as if nothing has happened. Money talks and that it not going to change, ever.... Again these are not IT problems, they are people problems.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Money talks and that it not going to change, ever.... Again these are not IT problems, they are people problems."

      Not people problems as much as regulatory problems. Money probably talks more loudly in the US. In the EU US money is more of a fairly distant wail.

    2. Jonathon Green
      Trollface

      Hmmm….

      I’m not sure I’d put the porn industry in the same category as Meta et-al. I’ve seen much less genuinely concerning material on Pornhub than I have on Facebook or Xitter….

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Hmmm….

        All Pornhub wants to do is show you some Porn, the others want to own your soul.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm….

          Actually, they want to show porn to people with credit cards. They are not interested one bit in pushing porn to kids, or to people not interested in it.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm….

        It's improved gigantically since Pornhub moved to only allowing verified accounts to upload material and it purging anything that wasn't from a verified user. Before that... Let's just say there was some truly horrendous material on there if you either looked for it or was unfortunate enough to run across for some reason.

    3. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Social media industry replies:

      "Sod the children, think of the $$$$. Won't anyone think of the $$$$ and our share price?"

    4. Herring`

      First Law

      A robot may not harm shareholder value, nor by inaction allow shareholder value to come to harm

  2. Cruachan

    The most telling thing IMO with RIPA and similar bills worldwide is that the politicians trying to implement it also want to exempt themselves from it.

    Also as is always pointed out here, anyone using E2EE is probably also encrypting their payloads, and if they are not they certainly will if E2EE gets weakened.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Backdooring E2EE ? Might as well legislate to make Pi = 3

    They tried that as well. It didn't work out either.

    Backdooring encryption is just political faffing about trying to look busy and well-meaning. The cynic in me says they know full well they don't their encryption backdoored, so it's just for the ratings.

    But that doesn't mean that articles like these are not important. They are very important to shoot down the endless stupidity of politicians.

    1. yet another bruce

      Re: Backdooring E2EE ? Might as well legislate to make Pi = 3

      Excellent analogy!

      To be fair, however, the Indiana pi bill of 1897 approximated pi to 16/5 and sqrt(2) to 10/7. It may be wrong but at least it is rational!

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Backdooring E2EE ? Might as well legislate to make Pi = 3

        Them factions look rather vulgar to me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Backdooring E2EE ? Might as well legislate to make Pi = 3

          That's a highly improper spelling of fractions...

      2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: Backdooring E2EE ? Might as well legislate to make Pi = 3

        "It may be wrong but at least it is rational!"

        Depends on which definition of "rational" you're using...

  4. xanadu42
    FAIL

    "Think of the Children" is a term also being used to promote many forms of xenophobia (eg antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc, etc, etc, etc) by extremists (and politicians that pander to same for their own political gain)

    The fact that "security forces" and other politicians (not pandering to extremists) are now following suite is not surprising :(

    These are the same group of people/organisations who would be the loudest complainers if E2EE was compromised and their private communications channels were published...

    Targeting the corporate algorithms that promote all the negative aspects of our society to "the Children" is the obvious solution ...

    Unfortunately one country has "ancient", totally outdated, laws that protect said corporates

  5. Carbon Man

    Here's an out their thought for the politicians and authorities. Lead by example, get this special encryption setup for themselves, their families and especially their children who must need protection like everybody else and show the rest of us how it works. You know, for the 72 hours before their extra marital affairs and teenage childs personal details are spread across the WWW.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "They are a high value target in all this, and weakening their own transactional security is as bad an idea as it sounds."

    Unfortunately it doesn't sound bad to its proponents. How do we overcome this?

    1. Jon 37

      Sadly they don't understand computers, so think that computers are magic, so think that computers can be made to do whatever they want.

      This goes way back to the very first computing machine:

      > On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        To be fair.... Microsoft... Stopped clock.. etc.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "There are a lot of unhappy kids around"

    The term used to be "teenage angst" and that goes back about as far as when I was a teenager - which is not long after the term "teenage" was invented.

    1. PB90210 Bronze badge

      It's all the fault of this dashed beat combos and their washboards

      I'm all for mandatory built-in catflaps for their communications and a policeman stationed outside every phonebox

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Being a teenager sucked...

      ...14-18 are the worst years of many people's lives.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being a teenager sucked...

        Hear hear. Bullied by the jocks, ignored or bullied by the "popular" kids, few other geeks to hang out with. It really sucked.

        Now I'm a working professional, and things just keep getting better, and have for the past 20 years. Poor jocks and popular kids, everything since then has been downhill for them.

    3. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      "Teen angst", always confused me as a teen.

      I was supposed to have it, being a teen. Instead I was totally normal.

      All the other teens however seemd to be from another planet entirely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Teen angst", always confused me as a teen.

        I was supposed to have it, being a teen. Instead I was totally normal.

        All the other teens however seemd to be from another planet entirely.

        Then, by definition, you were not normal. The one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind is...wierd.

    4. Dr Dan Holdsworth
      Boffin

      To be honest this is a feature, not a bug.

      We know that through a person's teenage years their brain is undergoing quite a lot of change including a lot of connection-pruning. Effectively human brains start by accumulating a massive number of connections, then later on they prune back the ones that are optimal to the environment the person is then in.

      This process of changing from child to adult is not particularly pleasant and generally causes a fair amount of anxiety and pain. I would hypothesise that the anxiety and pain are actually necessary parts of the process its self and MUST be present if you are to get an adult human being at the end of the process; if you try to medicate and otherwise remove all of this pain you merely end up with a very big kid, and once they've moved on from this phase of brain development, they stay as a very big kid.

  8. Evil Scot Bronze badge

    A fire door not a back door.

    According to the BBC the exploitation is performed on other lesser known, more private, networks. The social engineering is performed on the branded platforms. Blocking E2EE will do nothing to prevent this. What we do need is for the branded platforms to keep 2,3,6 months of checksums and add a panic button to their platforms that can report / dump the abusive behaviour to the operator's servers. The checksums will be used to confirm the communications after the victim has "kicked open the fire door".

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: A fire door not a back door.

      Nope.

      1. Evil Scot Bronze badge

        Re: A fire door not a back door.

        Why not?

        The fire door I am proposing is at the client level.

        E2EE is still present and un damaged.

        Meta et al are just validating my claims that the communication between me and the other party have not be modified. I, the user, am the one sending the decrypted message.

  9. Snake Silver badge

    Please, please stop it. Damnit.

    As a recent report from Dublin City University shows, TikTok and YouTube Shorts algorithms are devastatingly effective at focusing streams of misogynistic and male supremacist material at their users.

    Right. Because no study EVER looks at women's misandrist posts, from Spinkle Sprinkle to outright "men are useless" clips from The View. It's always the same, single viewpoint repeated over and over.

    1. botfap

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      You are clearly not woke enough to post here. Take you your factual observations elsewhere you nazi

      1. Snake Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: not woke enough

        Best response on the internet! Lol!

    2. Grogan Silver badge

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      You're right, but why should I care? In my face, I might have something to say about their attitudes, but online in their own echo chambers and pity parties, let them have their fun. Not being under the same conditions of harassment that women have put up with throughout the ages, you should have no reason to feel insecure about it.

      Ever gone to a drinking establishment and see a table of girls having a "girl's night out"? They usually treat all men with hostility. So what? Take the hint, you weren't invited to their party :-)

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: should I care

        I *am* under the same harassment policies, worse in actuality.

        Most people would classify me, and I did / do for the most part, as liberal. But I'm even more horrible than "liberal" in today's society: I'm egalitarian. And them yelling and screaming for their 'equality', but then about-facing that equality when it (solely) suits them, pisses me off to no end. I'm 110% for equality, but that has to be everywhere, both ways, for everything. Don't go preaching how you're being repressed from the board room when you're also not on the oil derrick deck; worse, don't go preaching how the other sex is 'horrible' and then expect members of that very sex to keep your light bulbs burning and your gasoline flowing without question.

        Fritz Lang's Metropolis is here, today. And we've become so accustomed to accepting it that there are those in society that cheer its very existence.

        110% equality, everywhere, for everyone, thank you very much.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      All recommendation algorithms are toxic. All should be banned outright.

      Just forbid "platforms" from "recommending" anything. Is that so hard?

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

        > forbid "platforms" from "recommending" anything.

        You're advocating banning ads here. Sure, will happen...

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

          Am I? I don't see how. I mean, sure they'll get to show fewer ads, but only because people will (probably) be watching fewer videos. Frankly I don't see a problem with that.

          An ad isn't the platform itself recommending something, it's just another piece of third-party content that the platform is hosting. And it can attach itself to other videos following simple, transparent rules.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

            > I don't see how.

            An ad is (well, it's supposed to be) a recommendation: Like "Hey, try this, it's really good". So, "no recommendation" precludes showing ads, no matter from who they originate (YouTube videos aren't made by YouTube either). *shrug*

    4. jospanner

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      Someone’s not getting any

    5. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      "no study EVER looks at women's misandrist posts"

      Yes of course, lets pretend that misogynist posts and male supremacist propaganda a la Tate brothers never leads to increasing domestic abuse or bizarre ideas about the other 50% of our species.

      I'd agree that posts targeting men or women negatively should be stopped. Acting like a dick is not an acceptable response.

    6. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Please, please stop it. Damnit.

      Just because they give an example of the things that these algorithms are good at focusing doesn't exclude other things from being similarly focused at users. But whereas misandrist and man hating content might lead to a few women not starting their relationships or cause some people to break up generally it doesn't lead to anything super dangerous to either party. Whereas the mysoginystic and male supremacist content most definitely HAS put women in grave danger from physical and sexual abuse and attack, from the simple expedient that yes, on average men are just stronger and bigger than women. Both are problems but as far as "this should REALLY get solved sooner rather than later" I would much rather the focus be on castrating the Tates of this world over the few men-hating future crazy cat ladies.

  10. nightflier
    Black Helicopters

    In the good old days..

    .. we blamed all of society's problems on the evil TV. It fried our brains, destroyed our eyes, made us fat and ruined our health.

    1. heyrick Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: In the good old days..

      Didn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In the good old days..

        well, not long before the telly printed books corrupted the minds, particularly those young, pure that do not know the rightous way. We had this luvely monolopy on truth going nicely for CENTURIES, and then this bastard Luterberg or something took it away! The battle for control is never gonna end ;)

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: In the good old days..

          TV and books may have been the "problem with kids" of the day, rock and roll too, but Social Media and constant access to everyone else’s opinions/thoughts from any culture no matter the compatibility with the one you are in, is very very different.

          With TV you had what, 4 channels? 5 channels later on and then Sky TV. All of that regulated. All the "nasty stuff" was post watershed.

          With books, you had a slooooooow medium. It took time to read and you had buckets of time to think decide and act. You could even put the book down halfway through, sit on it a week and come back. Or you could put it down halfway through and decide "Nah, thats enough of that".

          With Rock and Roll, unless you are the "Dancing Priest" it's very likely that the dancing and music will end at some point and you will go to bed and be made to engage with society and your education again.

          But with social media, you have none of what I have described. The platform informs YOU of what to watch and react to next. There is no regulation, what platform holds uploaded videos before review by the regulators? Maybe in China. There is too much data, too much to regulate and too much to control so any controls are always inadequate. Social Media isnt even something you have natural barriers against, for example, if we used the internet only at home, perhaps even a-la dialup with having to log in every time, you would have access ONLY at those times allowing you to have oh so much time offline. But no, we put a constant connection in our pockets and the teens etc have zero restrictions imposed as to when they are online, it's constant. THEY have to FORCE themselves to be offline to get a break from the algorithms and the cyber bullying etc. THEY have to do it, with their WILLPOWER which is hard to do when you are made to be ADDICTED to the platform by its INTENTIONALLY designed to be addictive algorithms.

          Think of it this way.

          Many people are happy to enjoy an adrenaline rush. They may go skydiving and all sorts of other things. This is addictive, but even an adrenaline junkie has many barriers in place that can help them avoid the next skydive. They have to work, the skydiving is expensive and must be BOOKED for a specific time etc etc. This enforces their off hours. But imagine if skydiving was like the old dialup internet, but we developed the tech to skydive, at will, anywhere and any-when for next to nothing even for free. On the bus, in the classroom, anywhere and any-when. Suspend your disbelief for a moment as you imagine people randomly skydiving through a bus, just think of the adrenaline rush effects. Just think of the algorithm that makes you want to do it more and more.

          Do you think thats good for the brain?

          Do you think that is in any way similar to a bookworm reading loads of books, or watching live TV?

          The internet and social media are VERY different and we let kids onto it thinking it's a good idea. Facebook won’t stop under 12s logging in, even though it's against the usage agreement. They are worth too much.

  11. navarac Silver badge

    Eleswhere

    As I and others have said elsewhere, the first people to get banned from using E2EE are politicians, police/law enforcement, government agencies and the like. Let them do a 2 year trial and have all their stuff loose on the interweb. All this >we must ban it for everyone, except "us"<, just proves that the "agencies" are probably more corrupt than your basic criminal.

    1. Telman

      Re: Eleswhere

      Probably?????

  12. Tron Silver badge

    The problem is...

    Politicians can demonise tech easily. But if they tell parents to actually do some parenting (monitor their kids' apps, talk to them, limit their use of tech, be their parent rather than their BFF), they lose votes. So guess what happens.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple's answer to E2EE...

    Apple has started to E2EE data sent to iCloud which they claim is to "protect users privacy" yet all your photos and iMessages remain on users iPhones for 30 days even if the user tries to delete them.

    Did you take an intimate or embarrasing photo or text that you'd like to remove?

    Too bad, you'll have to wait at least a month.

    Apple must have made a deal to keep incriminating evidence on your device for easy recovery by an authoratarian government.

    1. DS999 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Apple's answer to E2EE...

      The number of people who want to recover something they've deleted is a lot higher than the number of people who want to permanently delete something right away.

      All you have to do is go to the "deleted items" album, do 'select all' and delete and it is permanently erased from all devices and iCloud. Is that so hard?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple's answer to E2EE...

      iCloud data is encrypted with your device keys (and you can switch it off). Keep trolling though.

  14. ShortLegs

    Nothing to hide...

    Nah, y'all overthinkning the "let politicians trial it"

    Hey, Mr Politiican - show me your bank statement, and give me access to your bank acocunt. Because that is what you are asking of me.

  15. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Blanket bans?

    You can have my woobie when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised that there is no HTTP header...

    ...for "turn off all the adult garbage". Then it could be a browser option.

    Let's face it, 99% of sites would be fine to honor an "under 10, under 14, under 18, I'm not a degenerate"-equivalent HTTP header. Not that "the algorithm" doesn't figure this out already, of course.

    Given some of the adverts that Google likes to show, I'd probably set my age to 14 if there was an option...

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised that there is no HTTP header...

      > Let's face it, 99% of sites would be fine to honor an "under 10, under 14, under 18, I'm not a degenerate"-equivalent HTTP header

      They wont. We asked them not to track us with a similar header and guess what, it went ignored as the data is worth more that way.

      Same with kids. SIte has to choose between losing money vs letting a kid watch something that perhaps the parents if they bothere to are would not want them watching? They'll take the money and run. The kid is just data in their logfiles, they may as well not exist.

  17. cybergrcgb
    Devil

    Predictable bonehead response from El Reg

    Let's make this really simple for you. The internet we all know and love has enabled pond-life from around the planet to put their criminal and abusive practices on steroids. Indeed, something must be done.

    The internet giants, Google, Meta and their chums, have armies of engineers and billions to spare to come up with solutions to these problems. Since so far they have declined, preferring to boost their profit margins yet again instead, it has been up to tech dunce legislators to provide the answers. Unless the technocrats come up with a solution, the law makers will prevail.

    Ball's in your court, pal. No use shouting about how X, Y and Z wont' work, you need to provide the A, B and C of what will work. Clock's ticking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Predictable bonehead response from El Reg

      "Ball's in your court, pal. No use shouting about how X, Y and Z wont' work, you need to provide the A, B and C of what will work. Clock's ticking."

      You have rather conveniently stopped the 'saga' before the end of the story !!!

      As you have stated the internet giants have the means to do *something* but have declined to date.

      [*something* is quite ill-defined in this context and may not be a solution at all !!!]

      This situation will not change, there is *no* incentive to do anything.

      Why ?

      You, I and the internet giants know that the 'tech dunce legislators' plan cannot work as 'pandoras box' has been open for far too long & can never be shut.

      This means that letting the 'plan' fail is the easiest/cheapest solution for the 'internet giants' and they are quite capable of simply waiting it out.

      As per usual, the failures of the current administration will be used to enable the next set to 'win', the 'plan' will be paused and fade away from neglect !!!

      The idea will be bounced around for another few years and then once again .... think of the children ...... E2EE is the enemy .... etc etc

      [Rinse & repeat ad nauseum]

      :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Predictable bonehead response from El Reg

        Yes, I know it should be 'Ad Nauseam' ..... if only I could type & spell at the same tyme !!!

        :)

    2. SCP

      Re: Predictable bonehead response from El Reg

      Let's make this really simple for you.

      Well you re off to a bad start - these are complex problems with no simple answers, as illustrated well by our dunce legislators who repeatedly look for simple solutions that will not cost them money or votes.

      The internet we all know and love has enabled pond-life from around the planet to put their criminal and abusive practices on steroids. Indeed, something must be done.

      And while there is much wrong with the internet there are also a load more problems IRL that are going unaddressed and all too often our dunce's in charge have been more focussed on cutting the cost of law enforcement, rather than funding and equipping it to effectively detect, prosecute, convict and punish the criminals.

      There are certainly very big problems with dealing with organized crime - but even for smaller crimes it fosters a very low regard for the law if the wider populace sees crime such as shoplifting being ignared by the police or they cannot even get a response from the police when they, for example, burgled - and if somebody is convicted you get to read that they have many previous convictions but are given what seems a very light punishment. (This might be a UK/Europe centric view - the US penal system seems much more severe).

      And this only touches on one aspect of the problem, it does not address causes of crime.

      Many of the problems on the internet reflect problems IRL - and that is where the real solutions lie.

      The internet giants, Google, Meta and their chums, have armies of engineers and billions to spare to come up with solutions to these problems. Since so far they have declined, preferring to boost their profit margins yet again instead, it has been up to tech dunce legislators to provide the answers.

      This is rather pre-supposing that the solution is technical - which I don't think it is.

      Unless the technocrats come up with a solution, the law makers will prevail.

      Well for all their stupidity we can at least vote them out, which seems preferable to surrendering to our technical overlord. At least I get a personal reply from my government representative (or, more accurately, their office) - which is more than I get from Google when trying to recover a locked account; instead I end up locked in an endless automated reply hell hole.

      And passing the responsibility onto "Giant Tech" is itself fraught with many dangers. We already see reports of government agencies doing end-runs around "due process" by getting 3rd parties to do the thing they are not allowed to do without having good cause and lawful authority.

      There is a reason that democracies put checks and balances into their systems of justice to constrain the power of the state. There is also a balance to be struck between giving people freedoms and restricting what they are allowed to do. There are already arguments made that "Giant Tech" has amassed more detailed information and control over our lives than much of Government; do you really want to give them more. I don't.

      Ball's in your court, pal. No use shouting about how X, Y and Z wont' work, you need to provide the A, B and C of what will work. Clock's ticking.

      Politicians need to: solve world poverty; provide quality education fit for the modern world for all; provide accessible healthcare (including mental health) for all; and provide for fair justice that sees crime tackled and victims supported; do all this whilst protecting the freedoms and privacy of individuals. The ball's back in your court. No shouting about how difficult it all is and that U, V, W won't work, you need to provide D, E, F of what will work. Clock is still ticking.

      Well, that was fairly easy!

      Less sarcastically - politicians need to stop with their petty political point scoring and "sound-bite" policies and work on improving the societies they claim to represent. We know there are disagreements on what that should be, but there is also room for consensus politics. There are some politicians and political bodies that work on these things - sadly their work often goes unrecognized as they are drowned out by the yahoos that populate our media streams.

  18. pip25
    FAIL

    Parental controls

    The author was doing so well, too, but had to bring up this nonsense at the end. Reminds me of a recent, overall great TED talk about how current society robs kids of their future, which bizarrely ended with the aforementioned call for banning phones under 16.

    Parental controls are the same crap the author decries, just with an added bonus of giving parents the illusion of control. Not only do they never work well, they can even actually be harmful on occasion. Ban Facebook or TikTok from your kids' phone? They will look for alternative ways to get there and can easily stumble across scam sites.

    Instead of parental controls, what we'd need is actual parenting. Not something IT has the answer to, unfortunately, but even us tech-wizards have our limits. We can't solve everything, so let's not pretend otherwise.

    1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Parental controls

      > which bizarrely ended with the aforementioned call for banning phones under 16

      How would that rob a kid of their future?

      What does a kid under 16 need to do with a mobile phone and constant access to the internet that I couldnt do in 1996 when I was 16?

      I'm now 43, work in IT with a BSc in Computer Science and own my own home (due to luck I might add as the prices are crazy even for me). I didnt have access to the internet at home back then and had my own 486 running at 66MHz (it had a whopping 8MB of RAM too) and anything I wanted to do on the internet I simply did when I could, at school or in later years, at home when permitted by my parents, during the days of dialup. Even when I did have a phone it only sent SMS and calls and played snake and when we had broadband installed at home, there was no such thing as wifi and no way my dad was going to drill holes to run a network cable from the router to my now much more powerful PC (AMD running at 333MHz with 64MB RAM, sweeeet).

      I did mostly everything offline, even building my first PC from scratch, offline. It wasnt really very hard at all, I used a book and other knowledge. When I needed something off the web, I downloaded it when I had the oppertunity from school or university and simply carried it home. Nothing actually hindered me, it was just a bit slower. Heck I even applied for my first IT job after Uni using a laptop hooked into my mobile phone via serial cable, dialing up to my ISP (which I signed up to myself) to download and upload emails at a whopping speed of 1Kb/s and I was being charged by the min too.

      So, what the hell is so essential for a kid to have a mobile phone with constant internet access < 16?

      Answer: nothing. It's something they find cool and exciting and they become someones product. They also "need" it so that other kids will acept them, a behaviour I happily ignored when I was that age. There are plenty of kids around the world right now doing way more than a mobile phone touting 14 year old, and they dont even have internet access at home. They get it from libraries and schools. Most of the kids you are talking about are simply learning how to abuse, be abused, be a product, follow the corwd and get a better score on candy crush. Thats what these devices are marketed to them for.

      1. pip25

        Re: Parental controls

        I was ready to use some sort of "old man yells at cloud" meme for my reply, then I realized we're almost the same age, and my amusement turned into sadness.

        Yes, like you, I also spent most my school years with an offline PC. The Internet was something I could only access at school, with serious limitations. I survived.

        And as it so happens, both of our past experiences are utterly irrelevant to what's happening with kids and the net today. It's been 20+ years. You know just as well as I do what an incredibly large span of time 20 years is in IT. The net changed, its users changed, and in particular, the way kids use it (and how often they use it) has greatly changed as well.

        > What does a kid under 16 need to do with a mobile phone and constant access to the internet that I couldn't do in 1996 when I was 16?

        Let's see, off the top of my head: attend classes during the pandemic. Get supplementary materials while sick. Submit homework. Stay in touch with their classmates and teachers - you know, the same thing you've used SMS for, except this doesn't cost money per message.

        Oh, and all the above examples aren't something the kids come up with: there are schools all over Europe that have transitioned to pretty much online everything. COVID was a watershed moment in this regard.

        To give an approachable example for our generation: the Internet today is at a similar spot television was 20+ years ago. An incredible source of knowledge and entertainment - and if misused, can likewise turn you into a passive drolling zombie. But it's a part of our lives, and shielding our children from it is an exercise in futility. Let us teach them how to use it responsibly instead.

      2. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Parental controls

        "So, what the hell is so essential for a kid to have a mobile phone with constant internet access < 16?"

        What if your child has to travel daily to school on trains and buses and needs access to timetable changes? What if you want to know where your child is so you can pick them up when the public transport system fails? What if they need to call you to say they have missed the train/its cancelled/can they stay after school with x or y?

        My children had phones after primary school for those reasons (aged 11).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          What if...

          What if your child has to travel daily to school on trains and buses and needs access to timetable changes? What if you want to know where your child is so you can pick them up when the public transport system fails? What if they need to call you to say they have missed the train/its cancelled/can they stay after school with x or y?

          We solved these "problems" just fine in the days before the world had smartphones, 3/4G and near-universal access to the interwebs.

          If you think these are "solved" by giving your kids mobile phones. you have to accept the consequences of your decision. These include your kids being on-line 24x7, watching porn, frittering their lives & brains away on $social-network-platform-du-jour, failing to protect their personal data & privacy, cyberbullying, etc, etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What if...

            Ah yes, because none of that happened when you were a kid. Hogwash.

            I used to record erotic movies using a preprogrammed VHS recorder while everyone was asleep, obviously for research purposes. Porn mags being passed around among the boys in class was something of a meme. We did not have cyber-bullying, true - just, you know, physical bullying, which I'm sure was much better. All of my personal data was safe - but not my wallet, which was stolen from me by a pickpocket with all my pocket money when I was around 10, while I was escorted by my parents, no less. Instead of using social networks, I wasted my time watching TV and playing offline games on my parents' computer. So much better in every way, right?

      3. SCP

        Re: Parental controls

        What does a kid under 16 need to do with a mobile phone and constant access to the internet that I couldnt do in 1996 when I was 16?

        What does a kid of 16 need to do with a computer in their bedroom - and 8MB, why do you need more than 640k? Why back in 1976 when I was 16 we only had ...

        Of course, you and others here know the answers to these; it makes me sad that you cannot envisage the potential good that smart phones could have - particularly with the information age having largely come about during your lifetime. Of course there are problems associated with the technology, but it would not surprise me if your parents did not have concerns about the amount of time you were spending on your computer to the neglect of other things. When I was at university there were a number of students who ended up flunking out at the end of their first year because they spent too much time on the university computers and neglected their other studies. This did not seem to be an isolated occurrence.

        Having lived for a while I have seen and experienced toxic cultures on the playground, in the workplace, on usenet, on social media and so forth. I have also seen and experienced good and supportive friendships and practices develop in these places.

        In many ways the world has changed, in many ways it hasn't - politicians and other self-appointed activists calling for things to be banned is a familiar motif. I never cared for Mary Whitehouse and her rabble - and that has stuck with me. There is a lot I don't like on TV - I turn it off. I don't like the toxicity on a lot of social media so I don't subscribe.

        There are certainly negative aspects to an "always connected" world - but it would seem better to educate youngsters about them and help them develop the personal skills to recognize and cope with toxic behaviours. Developing the self-discipline to turn off the damn machine would be a jolly useful thing IMO.

        The current generation certainly face their own unique challenges, but so far society has not collapsed because of long hair, hippies, ending of national service, flared trousers, television, punk rock, computers, etc I am sure that most of today's kids will figure things out and in thirty years will be moaning about The Next Great Thing that is ruining their children's lives - and some will be calling for it to be banned.

  19. James Anderson

    One solution solves most of these problems ....

    Get rid of the "common carrier" status and classify Facebook etc. as publishers. Which is what they are. Then let existing laws take effect.

    1. iGNgnorr

      Re: One solution solves most of these problems ....

      How exactly does that work in the huge part of the world which is not USA?

      1. James Anderson

        Re: One solution solves most of these problems ....

        Most countries in the world have courts and legal systems that allow you to sue for libel, prosecute people or companies promoting criminal activity etc.etc.

        The problem currently is it’s just too much trouble to track down the anonymous trolls and even if you did sue them there is probably no money and nothing worth seizing from their double wide.

        On the other hand Google, Facebook et al. have registered addresses and lots of lovely cash.

  20. JohnG

    Article 8 of the ECHR

    The right to privacy in one's communications is set out in Article 8 of the ECHR. While exemptions are sometimes allowed for national security reasons, a blanket ban on encryption or backdooring would not be tolerated by the courts. Europol might want a draconian police state but it isn't going to happen (in Europe).

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

      But I fort we di'n 'ave to doo all that Uuuurup noncesense any more cos we got Brexit done and kicked out all those forriners! We can doo wot we like!! Fuckemall!! RULE BRITANNIA!!!!11!ONE

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

        > But I fort we di'n 'ave to doo all that Uuuurup noncesense any more cos we got Brexit done and kicked out all those forriners! We can doo wot we like!! Fuckemall!! RULE BRITANNIA!!!!11!ONE

        The ECHR has as much to do with the EU and Brexit as a Carrot has to do with a bag of paper straws.

        Thanks to Brexit, most people know know more about the ECHR and the terrible cost of Tony Blair making it our highest, unelected and unaccountable court.

        Apart from you.

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

          (whoosh)

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

            (some people clearly don't understand humour)

        2. R Soul Silver badge

          Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

          No courts (I think you meant judges) are elected In the civilised world. [Yes, I know US elects some judges. But I said "civilised world". No courts areaccountable to the electorate or politicians either - and with good reason. Legal process and application of the law has to be impartial and free from political interference. Unless you're in Russia or some banana republic. ECHR isn't our highest court. That would be England's Supreme Court.

          BTW, what part of the European Convention on Human Rights upsets you the most, the right to a fair trial? freedom of expression? right to life? prohibition of slavery and torture? the right to liberty?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Article 8 of the ECHR

        Lets make are cuntry, Ingerland, Grate again

  21. Patrician

    Or here's a thought; get parents back parenting. This isn't an IT issue, it's a parenting issue; many these days seem to think that parenting is somebody else's job, the school, the government, the man at the corner shop. Anyone but the parents themselves.

  22. MichaelGordon

    And when they do use their back door to read a suspect stream they'll find out the bad guys have been using the allowed encryption to send an encrypted version of an E2EE stream.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some Not Very Good Arguments...

    Hmmm, well there's a logic problem here. Wilton in that linked article is quoted as saying:

    "If you look back to about 2015 and look at the proliferation of available end-to-end encrypted messaging services and apps since then … somehow the number of arrests for illegal images [should] have dropped off the cliff. But it hasn't. It has pretty much remained constant."

    The problem with that statement is that he's assuming that the number of arrests is a reliable measure of the amount of crime going on. That's almost certainly not true, and he's not substantiated it. Worse, it's not matched by the significant increase in demand for mental health support services.

    A more realistic interpretation is that, with investigations resulting in about the same number of arrests, but against a background of widespread E2EE available to the criminal, that would indicate that in fact the crime rate has risen, probably quite alarmingly, and that the police are having to work harder than ever to get a case to an arrest.

    See, he can't have it both ways; he can't say that E2EE is paramount and effective for outright privacy for the decent users, but then say it's not delivering any benefit to one set of criminally minded persons. The other way round: if it's doing nothing for the criminals and the police can walk into an illegal conversation as easily as before, as Wilton contends, why would anyone then be able to trust E2EE as actually delivering on its claims?

    Is he suggesting that no such criminals are in fact using E2EE? None at all?

    Service Providers Financially Benefit from E2EE

    If a service provider puts on a good enough show of their service being E2EE, then they cannot acquiesce to warranted legal intercept requests. Servicing such requests costs, and it's not the LEAs that pay that cost. If it's impossible (because, E2EE), no cost is incurred. You also cannot self-police the service content either.

    If you're a very large service operator, that's potentially a lot of money saved. That's probably the main reason why such services exist as E2EE, especially when there's huge issue monetising them. The very last thing one wants when running a service at a marginal profit is for that to be subject to large compliance costs that are not in the company's control. Better to brave out the PR and make some money, than cave in to be a good corporate citizeen and then discover one's compliance costs going throught the roof because a % of the user base is true scumbags.

  24. Roj Blake Silver badge

    As Sir Humphrey Appleby would say...

    Something must be done! This is something, therefore it must be done.

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