Nevada Is In Court This Morning Looking To Get A Temporary Restraining Order Blocking Meta From Using End-To-End Encryption

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from the protect-encryption-now dept

There have been plenty of silly lawsuits against tech companies over the last few years, but a new one from Nevada against Meta may be the most crazy — and most dangerous — that we’ve seen so far. While heavily redacted, the basics fit the pattern of all of these lawsuits. Vague claims of harms to children from social media, with lots of vague handwaving and conclusory statements with no basis in insisting that certain harms are directly traceable back to choices Meta made (despite a near total lack of evidence to support those claims).
But, rather than go through the many, many, many problems of the lawsuit (you can read it yourself at the link above or embedded below), let’s jump ahead to a hearing that is happening today. Nevada has asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order, blocking Meta from using end-to-end encryption on messages, claiming that such encryption is harmful to children.
That sounds hyperbolic, but it’s exactly what’s happening:
It’s no secret that lazy cops like the FBI’s Chris Wray (and before him, James Comey) have always hated encryption and wanted it banned for making it just slightly more difficult to read everyone’s messages, but at least they spoke mostly about just requiring magic backdoors that would allow encryption to work for normal people, but have it break when the cops came asking (this is not a thing, of course, as it would break for everyone if you did that).
Here, the state of Nevada is literally just saying “fuck it, ban all encryption, because it might make it harder for us to spy on people.”
The TRO request is full of fearmongering language. I mean:
The TRO request also more or less admits that Nevada cops are too fucking lazy to go through basic due process, and the fact that the 4th Amendment, combined with encryption, means they have to take an extra step to spy on people is simply a bridge too far:
Just because you’re a cop does not mean you automatically get access to all communications.
As for the actual legal issues at play, the state claims that Meta using encryption to protect everyone is a “deceptive trade practice.” I shit you not. Apparently Nevada has a newish state law (from 2022) that makes it an additional crime to engage in “unlawful use of encryption.” And the state’s argument is that because Meta has turned on encryption for messages, and some people may use that to commit crimes, then Meta has engaged in a deceptive trade practice in enabling the unlawful use of encryption. Really.
Furthermore, Nevada claims that Meta engaged in deceptive trade practices by promoting encryption as a tool to keep people safer.
This is a full-on attack on encryption. If Nevada succeeds here, then it’s opening up courts across the country to outlaw encryption entirely. This is a massive, dangerous attack on security and deserves much more attention.
Meta’s response to the motion is worth reading as well, if only for the near exasperation of the company’s lawyers as to why suddenly, now, end-to-end encryption for messaging — a technology that has been available for many, many years — has become so scary and so problematic that it needs to be stopped immediately.
The response also points out that for the state to argue it’s in such a rush to ban Meta from using end-to-end encryption, it sure isn’t acting like it’s in a rush:
Meta also points out that Nevada itself recognizes the value of encryption:
Nevada’s position here, including the haste with which it is moving (after doing nothing about encryption for years) is astounding, dangerous, and disconnected from reality. Hopefully the court recognizes this.