Parent company Meta will now wait until at least 2023 to bring messaging encryption - meaning the communications are 'scrambled' in transit so can only be read by the sender and receiver and not accessed by anyone else - The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) previously claimed private messaging "is the front line of child sexual abuse", while UK Home Secretary Priti Patel cautioned against the technology earlier this year, arguing it could "severely hamper" criminal investigations.
Antigone Davis, Meta's global head of safety, explained the delay was because the company are keen to "get this right", having previously said they would introduce the security feature in 2022 at the earliest.
She said: "As a company that connects billions of people around the world and has built industry-leading technology, we're determined to protect people's private communications and keep people safe online."
The executive also revealed a number of additional measures Meta have already put in place including "proactive detection technology", which scans for suspicious patterns such as users messaging a large number of people they don't know or repeatedly setting up new profiles.
And for accounts owned by under-18s, they will be made private, or friends-only, by default, and adults will only be able to message them if already connected.
Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, think Meta have made the right decision with the delay but urged them not to go ahead until they know children won't be put at risk.
He said: "They should only go ahead with these measures when they can demonstrate they have the technology in place that will ensure children will be at no greater risk of abuse.
"More than 18 months after an NSPCC-led a global coalition of 130 child protection organisations raised the alarm over the danger of end-to-end encryption, Facebook must now show they are serious about the child safety risks and not just playing for time while they weather difficult headlines."