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I stumbled across this document, "International Statement: End-to-end Encryption And Public Safety", signed by several politicians who identify themselves far-right. The statement essentially demands the IT companies to provide with backdoors in their encryption algorithms to ensure "governments, acting with appropriate legal authority" access to encrypted documents.

A significant part of the petition identifies child sexual abuse as the justification for attacking on cyber security. It reiterates the number of child-protecting organizations who are working on the problem of child abuse, however it never explains why this type of crime should be the main reason for demanding security backdoors.

For example, it is known that encrypted communications have been used for coordinating the effort of criminals involved in drug trafficking, international terrorism, arms sales, assassinations and torture, and even in manipulating elections in foreign countries.

Why do these politicians so… ermm… exaggeratedly demonstrate their concern about the child abuse, but not about other — no less serious and evident — crimes?

My first guess (and this is why I emphasize that they who signed the Statement are on the far-right of the political spectrum) is that the government control over everything is basically more of a left-wing agenda, while personal privacy is the concept the right-wings usually defend. This Statement is something completely different, and this makes me think that the sides of a political spectrum might be the key for answering this question. Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • Terrorism was used as a pretty strong reason for surveillance. I think it’s seen as less of a concern during the coronavirus lockdown, so they had to use some other rationale instead. – Andrew Grimm Oct 16 at 11:56
  • Emotion is powerful. Everyone wants to prevent child sex trafficking so it is difficult to come out against it. Kind of like the "Affordable Care Act" or PATRIOT Act." Both are appealing names but both are a net negative. – acpilot Oct 16 at 15:39
  • The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act... introduced by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper ...would have granted authorities new powers to monitor and track the digital activities of Canadians in real-time, required service providers to log information about their customers and turn it over if requested, and made back door entrances mandatory ... The bill did not mention children, ... – Keith McClary Oct 16 at 18:24
  • @KeithMcClary, …not even in its name. – bytebuster Oct 16 at 22:39
  • This is not a bad question per se, but keep in mind that "why" questions are hard to answer objectively. – Chipster Oct 17 at 1:43
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There is practically no debate on the issue of child abuse, especially child sexual abuse. Practically everyone agrees it is bad, practically everyone agrees it should be punished. Furthermore, as a society in general we perceive children as most worthy of protection due to their perceived innocence and factual weakness. Crimes committed that have children as victims consistently generate huge public outcries.

Furthermore, there is probably a common agreement all across the population that malicious actors are using internet means to commit and share child sexual abuse; and that these actors will probably hide themselves well (i.e. use encryption) to not be caught. If this agreement does not exist, it is relatively easy to point to a couple of high-profile cases (a.k.a. the vast child sexual abuse investigations that have been ongoing in Germany since around late 2019) to make that point.

The above opens a very easy chain of arguments to use. As child sexual abuse is so incredibly evil we must use all means possible to combat it. Thus, these measures should create agreement all across the politial spectrum. And finally: if you are against these measures then you must be cruel and inhumane and either condone child sexual abuse or at least be complicit.

It essentially gives those who propose such measures full control over the spin of the message, painting themselves as the righteous and good and anybody opposing the measure – even if for perfectly reasonable reasons such as concern about government surveillance or government obstruction of dissent – as evil and malicious. And it is not a stretch to propose that back doors in otherwise encrypted internet services can assist law enforcement in preventing and punishing child sexual abuse – unlike, for example, CCTV cameras with face tracking technology which do not by themselves provide such an option.

I believe the above is perfectly sufficient to explain why this exact message was chosen: It sounds effective, the majority will believe it is effective, it is easy to villainise any opponents and sanctify oneself for the proposition.

Some may claim that other considerations were made, such as references or dog whistles to pizzagate/QAnon or other conspiracy ideologies; or that they themselves may have something to hide. I do not wish to engage in these discussions as I believe they fall victim to Occam’s Razor.

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    The added benefit is that right wing, at least in the US, has a good dose of libertarians. Almost any other reason claimed for government crypto oversight would almost by definition be against their worldview - anti-terrorist watch for example can quickly segue into anti-dissident watch. Even then the IT community has a strong streak of cynicism on this and "Think of the children!" is an often mocked meme. There are really no easy answers, but breakable encryption is so risky wrt crimes and scams against ordinary people that only truly horrible crimes might remotely justify it. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Oct 16 at 8:02
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Standard political playbook-strategy in the U.S.:

You want to pass a law that is likely to face severe public and/or political opposition? Include provisions/arguments that allow you to accuse the opposition of hating [include sympathetic group] or loving [include unsympathetic group] and give it an uplifting patriotic name. Republicans like to use veterans or terrorists respectively, Democrats prefer minorities and racists, both love to use children.

"You don't want the government to look into your personal data without any form of warrant by mandate of the BALD-EAGLE-PUPPIES-ACT? When was it that you started supporting child rape/terrorism?"

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    While this is more concise than Jan's answer I'm not sure it adds anything the previous answer didn't already cover. – Jontia Oct 16 at 10:20

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