Facebook Messenger Faces Lawsuit from Civil Rights Activists over Chat Controls

Civil rights activists are suing Facebook Messenger's chat controls

Civil rights activists have taken legal action against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in a bid to challenge the scanning of private messages for illegal content on Facebook Messenger. The Society for Freedom Rights (GFF) filed a lawsuit in the Passau district court, citing concerns over the EU’s plans for comprehensive chat control. These plans involve the monitoring of online communication, including scanning private chats for images of child sexual abuse, which has faced criticism from various sources. The GFF claims that Meta automatically scans private communications on Facebook Messenger, violating fundamental rights. They argue that few people are aware of this monitoring and that it undermines privacy and encrypted communication.

This legal action follows a previous emergency regulation issued by the EU Parliament, enabling service providers to scan private messages for illegal content for a period of three years. However, the GFF warns that allowing platforms to read private chats without justification would lead to the end of encrypted communication. They assert that automated chat controls not only contravene the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but also violate privacy rights and the fundamental right to control one’s own data.

MEP Patrick Beyer previously filed a complaint against Meta, urging the company to ban the automated search of private chat histories and photos. Beyer referred to this practice as a “Big Brother attack” and likened it to the surveillance state in China. He emphasized the importance of digital postal secrecy in maintaining trust, especially for vulnerable individuals, victims of abuse, and the economy.

Overall, civil rights activists are bringing legal action against Meta to challenge the scanning of private messages on Facebook Messenger and to raise concerns about the impact on privacy and encrypted communication.

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