Meta to encrypt chats following arrest of mother and daughter who performed home abortion, messaged about plans

Meta announced on Thursday that they are working to encrypt Facebook messenger chats end-to-end by default, ensuring that the communicated information is only viewed and controlled the sender and receiver of the messages.

CNN reports that Meta is expanding encryption features for Facebook Messenger and Instagram, which includes plans to encrypt calls made over the device as well as chats, meaning even the company could not access users’ communication.

The move comes after scrutiny the company faced because they provided law enforcement several chats between a mom and her daughter who aborted her baby at home, burned it, and buried it in a shallow grave.

In April 2022, Nebraska police were alerted to a report that 41-year-old Jessica Burgess performed an in-house abortion on her 17-year-old daughter Celeste who was 23 weeks pregnant. In June 2022 Nebraska police sent a search warrant to Meta and requested the chats between Jessica and Celeste.

The Daily Mail reports that Facebook said in a statement, “nothing in the search warrants received from local law enforcement mentioned abortion,” but instead focused on the details around a stillborn baby.

The chat messages were dated to April 20 and illustrated that Jessica told her daughter how to take the abortion pills and that they worked as Celeste forced a stillbirth. A few days later the pair took the dead baby, burned it, and buried it.

The women were arrested and charged with felony counts of removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body and misdemeanor charges of concealing the death of another person as well as false reporting. Mother Jessica was additionally charged with felony performing or attempting abortion at more than 20 weeks and felony performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor.

CNN Business reports that the messages were found in court filings and appear to reference the abortion pills and burning the evidence. The duo have plead not guilty.

After the incident multiple cites such as Forbes, the Verge, and Politico, criticized the social media company for turning over the chats.

Facebook announced they changes days later but maintained they had been planning the encryption upgrades for months.

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