M&C Saatchi hired by government for anti-encryption campaign targeting Meta

The UK government has appointed M&C Saatchi to run an “aggressive” ad campaign aimed at winning over public opinion against Meta’s end-to-end encryption plans.

The campaign will accuse Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp owner Meta as well as other encryption services of “blindfolding” police investigations and inform the public that encryption makes it hard to identify pedophiles and terrorists.

The ads have been drawn up to fight Meta’s planned rollout of end-to-end encryption beyond WhatsApp to all its messaging platforms.

In a statement to The Drum, the Home Office said: “The UK Government supports encryption and believes that end-to-end encryption can be implemented responsibly in a way which is consistent with public safety.

“Our view is that online privacy and cyber security must be protected, but that these are compatible with safety measures that can ensure the detection of child sexual exploitation and abuse.”

The Home Office said it had appointed M&C Saatchi to “bring together the many organizations who share our concerns about the impact end-to-end encryption would have on our ability to keep children safe.”

“M&C Saatchi’s support to partners includes PR and communications advice to work towards the shared goal of protecting children online,” it added.

The Drum understands children’s charity NSPCC is one partner that has supported the campaign. The organization wants Meta to demonstrate the encryption rollout won’t pose a greater risk to children.

The campaign also seeks to counter WhatsApp’s global ‘Message Privately’ encryption promotion campaign, which featured a series of humorous films created by BBDO.

Set to roll out in the coming weeks, the ads feature in print, TV and radio. M&C Saatchi said it couldn’t comment on government work.

The head of M15, the National Crime Agency and policing chief have previously come out against Meta’s encryption plans.

“Our number one priority is the protection of children and public safety. Technology companies must take responsibility for tackling the most serious illegal content on their platforms and protecting their users, including our children,” concluded the Home Office.

The Drum contacted Meta for comment but was awaiting response at the time of writing.