For immediate release: August 10, 2022


In response to the news that Facebook turned over the messages of a teenager in Nebraska to law enforcement over charges that she broke a state law banning abortions after 20 weeks, Fight for the Future’s Campaign and Managing Director, Caitlin Seeley George, issued the following statement:

“Since the reversal of Roe, Facebook’s parent company Meta and other Big Tech companies have made lofty promises about defending access to reproductive healthcare. However, most of these commitments only go as far as protecting their own employees by offering abortion as an employee benefit for a small and privileged group. At the same time, these companies’ hypocritical surveillance practices make them complicit in the criminalization of people seeking, facilitating, and providing abortions. 

In what may be the first example of Meta’s anti-human rights approach to abortion patients’ communication post-Roe, they have turned over the Facebook conversation between a seventeen year old girl and her mother so that the teenager might be punished for exercising her human right to bodily autonomy. Meta’s Facebook and Instagram have completely failed to make important changes to ensure the privacy of its most vulnerable users. If it continues to fail pregnant people by prioritizing surveillance over safety, this will only be the first in a long line of betrayals.

Meta has the ability to make end-to-end encryption the default for all of its messages, ensuring that no one but the message senders—not even people at Facebook or Instagram themselves—can access private conversations. Such protections are already default on Meta-owned WhatsApp and optional on Facebook and Instagram. Taking the small step of enabling end-to-end encryption by default would simply provide built-in protection for all users of these services, including those who need it the most.

When enabled, end-to-end encryption makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to access communications between abortion patients, their advocates, and their loved ones. The only way law enforcement could gain access to private messages on Facebook or Instagram would be by gaining access to the device or account itself. Meta must flip the switch and make end-to-end encryption a default in all private messages, including on Facebook and Instagram. Doing so will literally save pregnant peoples’ lives.

Meta’s actions speak louder than words. Right now, the company is saying that abortion patients do not deserve a safe space to receive support from their loved ones—Meta is saying, in fact, that it believes abortion patients should be prosecuted for exercising their bodily autonomy. Until Meta gives up surveilling private messages and begins protecting its users with end-to-end encryption, it remains complicit in the surveillance and criminalization of pregnant people.”