FACEBOOK’S boss will today refuse MI5 any access to terror plotters’ encrypted messages – leaving the tech giant’s new extremism PR push branded a sham.
Sheryl Sandberg will deliver the security snub during a face to face meeting with the Home Secretary behind closed doors, The Sun has learned.
Amber Rudd has demanded police and spooks are given access to secret messages exchanged between suspects on WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – after the Westminster terror attack on March 22.
Ms Sandberg is also expected to tell Ms Rudd that the government’s bid to enforce new powers to compel tech giants to hand over encrypted data is pointless.
As The Sun revealed last month, the Home Office is drawing up new Technical Capability Notices that will allow cops to order firms to make all messages readable and hand them over.
But the Facebook chief is expected to argue that there is no way for WhatsApp to break in to its end to end encryption.
Instead, in what critics claim is a bid to mask the tech giant’s refusal to help, Facebook’s chief operating officer Ms Sandberg will also publicly trumpet a new drive against hate speech.
She will share a stage today with murdered MP Jo Cox’s widower Brendan to launch Facebook’s Online Civil Courage Initiative.
The California-based giant risks further public fury by continuing to refuse the encryption demands, repeatedly also issued by PM Theresa May.
At the moment, WhatsApp uses unbreakable ‘end to end’ encryption where messages can only be viewed if the device itself is seized.
But Facebook could instruct its subsidiary to modify its encryption to one where messages can be accessed in an emergency from its servers, such as the encryption system that Facebook Messenger uses.
Campaigners insist the only reason the firm is refusing is to protect its highly lucrative business model boast that WhatsApp is unhackable by anyone.
Tory MP and Commons Culture Select Committee member Nigel Huddleston said: “The big tech giant believe they should be able to live in their own bubble and the rest of the world’s laws need not apply to them.
“They must take their responsibilities more seriously, and particular when it comes to end to end encryption.
“Facebook know WhatsApp is the platform of choice for some of the darkest elements in our society.
“The public’s mood on this has changed, and Facebook are on the wrong side of it.”
Mr Huddleston, who used to work for Google, added: “Sheryl Sandberg must promise something meaningful when she comes here, rather than just making the right noises.
“Just using the right words are toothless.”
A Whitehall source added: “There’s no way internet companies can stick their heads in the sand when it’s clear people are being radicalised online and terrorists are using their platforms.
“We need more urgent action and we need it now.”
Updating MPs on the three terror attacks on Britain in as many months yesterday, Ms Rudd said social media firms were beginning to help tackle extremism on their sites, but still too slowly.
The Home Secretary told the Commons: “There are signs they are taking action and we are making progress.
“But I do not underestimate the challenge of getting an international agreement.”