NIXsolutions: EU Debates Mass Scanning of Encrypted Messages

European parliamentarians are considering a law that would mandate the scanning of correspondence in instant messengers, including encrypted ones, across the region. Today, EU authorities will express their position on a bill designed to identify materials related to child abuse. The vote will determine whether the initiative gains enough support to advance within the EU legislative process.


The Upload Moderation System

The document, first unveiled in 2022, proposes an “upload moderation” system that would scan all digital messages a person submits, including images, videos, and links. Each instant messaging service operator, when implementing this monitoring system on their platform, will be required to request user consent to scan their messages. If users do not give such consent, they will not be able to send images or URLs.

The authors of the bill have a dual stance on end-to-end encryption. On one hand, they acknowledge that end-to-end encryption “is a necessary means to protect basic rights.” On the other, they argue that encrypted messaging services may “inadvertently become safe zones in which child abuse material is transmitted or distributed.” To address these issues, the proposed solution includes the ability to scan correspondence without compromising the confidentiality that end-to-end encryption provides. The moderation system would scan the contents of messages before the messenger encrypts them.

Opposition and Legislative Process

Signal President Meredith Whittaker has already stated that if the law is passed, the messenger will stop operating in the EU. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Mozilla have signed a joint statement urging the EU to reject the initiative related to scanning user content.

European parliamentarians are also expressing dissatisfaction with the initiative. Several dozen deputies wrote to the EU Council to voice their disagreement with the proposal. They believe the previously rejected bill has resurfaced because it is an opportune moment: elections to the European Parliament were recently held, and the Belgian presidency of the EU Council ends at the end of the month. Supporters of the initiative saw this as their last chance to push it through.

If the proposal receives support, the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission will begin consultations to form the final text of the law, notes NIXsolutions. However, even with backing from the authorities of EU countries, promoting the law may face challenges: a survey conducted last year revealed that two-thirds of European youth are against the initiative. We’ll keep you updated on any developments regarding this controversial bill.