File picture: Matt Rourke/AP

London - Paedophiles will find it easier to target victims online under plans by Facebook to merge its messaging platforms, a children’s charity has warned.

The NSPCC said plans unveiled by Facebook yesterday will make it easier for child abusers to access young victims, and groom them without being detected.

It will also make it much harder for parents to police their children’s activities online, or bar them from using particular social networks, experts said. The warning came after Facebook announced that it will link infrastructure behind its Facebook messaging app, WhatsApp and Instagram, which it also owns. The change will mean that those who use Facebook Messenger will be able to communicate with people who only have a WhatsApp account.

Andy Burrows, of the NSPCC, said: ‘The decision to merge and incorporate end-to-end encryption in all three apps means child abusers could find it easier to access more young victims, and detecting grooming behaviour and sexual abuse on these apps will become far more difficult.’

According to the New York Times, the change is the project of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The firm expects to complete the job by the end of the year or early 2020. Facebook said yesterday the move is designed to ‘make it easier to reach friends and family across networks’. At the moment, any texts and images sent over WhatsApp are encrypted, so they are inaccessible even to the police and Facebook. Now the company wants to apply the same level of privacy to Facebook Messenger.

Daily Mail