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Vitalik Buterin Celebrates EU Chat Control Proposal Failure, Encryption Battle “A Significant Win”

Published 2 mins ago
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Published 2 mins ago

Key Takeaways

  • The EU Parliament has failed to pass legislation aimed at combating online communications for child sex abuse material.
  • Privacy advocates and tech leaders like Vitalik Buterin have criticized the proposal. 
  • They argued it would create vulnerabilities and disproportionately affect users who rely on secure communication.

The EU’s Chat Control 2.0 legislation  didn’t receive enough votes for approval for the fourth time in a row at the EU Parliament. The proposal’s contentious requirement to scan on encrypted platforms like WhatsApp has raised significant concerns about compromising end-to-end encryption, a cornerstone of digital privacy.

Following the recent setback, law opponents, including Vitalik Buterin and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) , celebrated the development as a “significant win.”

What EU Chat Control Proposal Was

The EU’s Chat Control 2.0 legislation, introduced in 2022 by European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, aims to combat the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)  online. This legislation proposes an “upload moderation” system for digital messaging services, requiring them to scan all shared content – such as photos, videos, and links – against a government database of known abuse material.

This scanning would occur even on encrypted messaging platforms like WhatsApp, sparking concerns about the implications for end-to-end encryption. EU officials argued that with the rise of encrypted messaging and artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content, stronger measures are necessary to prevent these platforms from facilitating illegal activities and to enhance detection capabilities for CSAM.

The legislation mandates that messages be scanned before encryption, potentially compromising the privacy protections of end-to-end encryption. Suspicious content would undergo further review by human moderators. They could report them to law enforcement before delivery to the recipient.

One of the main points of contention is the requirement for scanning on encrypted platforms. End-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and recipient can access messages, enhancing privacy but complicating efforts to monitor illegal content. The legislation includes a provision for user consent, requiring users to agree to message scanning to upload or share content, aiming to balance privacy concerns with the need for security.

Vitalik Buterin Sees It As “A Significant Win”

The EU’s Chat Control legislation has sparked significant controversy. This is due to its conflict with principles of end-to-end encryption and the right to privacy. Privacy advocates argue that such measures undermine encryption by introducing vulnerabilities that malicious actors, including hackers and governments, could exploit. This compromise, they contend, could jeopardize the security and privacy of millions of users.

Following the recent failure of the Belgian Presidency to broker a deal advancing the regulation after over two years of debate within the EU, opponents of the Chat Control law have expressed relief. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, celebrated the news. “Recent news of EU chat control proposals failing feels like a significant win. Really grateful to see so many people working hard to make this outcome happen, and congratulations to Europeans,” he posted  on X.

However, Buterin also cautioned , “And yes I know it’s not ‘dead’. Realistically, it never will be. We’re entering very challenging territory for preserving privacy, especially as things like mind reading become possible over the next century. No solution other than ‘eternal vigilance’. Keep up the good fight!”

His remarks highlight ongoing concerns about the future of privacy in an increasingly digital world.

“No One Wants Chat Control”

Vitalik Buterin is a prominent voice against the Chat Control legislation but wasn’t alone. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) , founded in 1990, is a leading nonprofit defending civil liberties.

The EFF expressed gratitude to those who signed its petition. “For all those who have reached out to sign the “Don’t Scan Me” petition, thank you. Your voice is being heard. The sponsors of this flawed proposal withdrew it because they couldn’t get a majority of member States to support it.”

EFF has consistently opposed the legislation, emphasizing that compromising encryption for public safety is misguided. It highlighted concerns about the proposal’s creation of “detection orders,” enabling mass scanning of messages, files, and photos against government databases of child abuse images. The use of AI to scan text conversations and predict behavior was particularly contentious. This contributed to the name of “Chat Control” for the proposal.

According to the nonprofit association, public sentiment does not favor government file-scanning systems that undermine encryption. And such measures lack support within EU law. The EFF told CCN that “the law may affect those who rely on secure communications most – like lawyers, journalists, human rights workers, and political dissidents. Ironically, even the vulnerable groups the proposal aimed to protect could face hindrances in securely seeking help.”

“The right to have a private conversation, online or offline, is a bedrock human rights principle,” The EFF said.

“When surveillance is used as an investigation technique, it must be targeted and coupled with strong judicial oversight. In the coming EU council presidency, which will be led by Hungary, leaders should drop this flawed message-scanning proposal and focus on law enforcement strategies that respect peoples’ privacy and security.”

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