EFF learned last week that the state of Nevada is seeking an emergency order prohibiting Meta from rolling out end-to-end encryption in Facebook Messenger for all users in the state under the age of 18. The motion for a temporary restraining order is part of a lawsuit by the state Attorney General alleging that Meta’s products are deceptively designed to keep users addicted to the platform. While we regularly fight legal attempts to limit social media access, which are primarily based on murky evidence of its effects on different groups, blocking minors’ use of end-to-end encryption would be entirely counterproductive and just plain wrong.

Encryption is the most vital means we have to protect privacy, which is especially important for young people online. Yet in the name of protecting children, Nevada seems to be arguing that merely offering encryption on a social media platform that Meta knows has been used by criminals is itself illegal. This cannot be the law; in practice it would let the state prohibit all platforms from offering encryption, and such a ruling would raise serious constitutional concerns. Lawsuits like this also demonstrate the risks posed by bills like EARN IT and Stop CSAM that are now pending before Congress: state governments already are trying to eliminate encryption for all of us, and these dangerous bills would give them even more tools to do so.

EFF plans to speak up for users in the Nevada proceeding and fight this misguided effort to prohibit encryption.  Stay tuned.

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