Adding to the prevailing misinformation surrounding end-to-end encryption, a misleading report by the non-profit newsroom ProPublica recently questioned the integrity of WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. While metadata collection is indeed a concern for WhatsApp, the report states that WhatsApp reads messages with its ‘extensive monitoring operation’.
WhatsApp reporting feature does not break end-to-end encryption
Just like any other social platform, WhatsApp has a content moderation team to review user reports. Whenever a user reports a conversation, the last 5 messages are sent to WhatsApp for moderation. In fact, this is clearly stated in the report pop-up, as you can see in the image below:
Reacting to the complaint, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “WhatsApp provides a way for people to report spam or abuse, which includes sharing the latest messages in a chat. This feature is important to prevent the worst abuses on the internet. We strongly disagree with the idea that accepting reports that a user chooses to send us is incompatible with end-to-end encryption. ”
Right after WhatsApp’s statement, ProPublica updated the post to clarify the original story. “An earlier version of this story caused unintended confusion about the extent to which WhatsApp examines its users’ messages and breaks the cryptography that keeps exchanges secret. We changed the language in the story to make it clear that the company only examines posts from threads that have been reported by users as possibly abusive. It doesn’t break end-to-end encryption”, reads the update.
Reporting a message would not break end-to-end encryption as the reporting feature is intended to help avoid negative interactions on the platform. You can learn more about the WhatsApp security model in our detailed WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal comparison.