Plans for encrypted messaging between users on Facebook and Instagram would be a ‘grotesque betrayal’ of children, according to the Home Secretary.

Meta’s plans would mean only the sender and recipient of a message would be able to access and read its content, which is already the case on Meta-owned WhatsApp.

Priti Patel, writing in the Telegraph, criticised the move – intended to protect personal data and privacy – saying it could derail child abuse investigations.

“The consequences of inadequate protections – especially for end-to-end encrypted social media platforms – would be catastrophic,” she wrote.

“A great many child predators use social media platforms such as Facebook to discover, target and sexually abuse children. These protections need to be in place before end-to-end encryption is rolled out around the world.”

She urged Meta to work with the Home Office on these protections.

“It would be completely unacceptable – indeed a grotesque betrayal – for anyone to say this is all too difficult or that it doesn’t really matter,” she continued.

“But while some things are more important than profits, it is actually in the financial interests of technology companies that the public should have confidence that their products and services will not be used to hurt children.”

A Meta spokesman responded: “We have no tolerance for child exploitation on our platforms and are focused on solutions that do not require the intrusive scanning of people’s private conversations. We want to prevent harm from happening in the first place, not just detect it after the fact.

“We continue to work with outside experts and law enforcement to help keep people safe online.”