Adding to the misinformation prevalent around end-to-end encryption, a misleading report from non-profit newsroom ProPublica recently questioned the integrity of WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. While the collection of metadata is indeed a concern about WhatsApp, the report claimed that WhatsApp reads messages with its ‘extensive monitoring operation’.
WhatsApp’s Reporting Feature Does Not Break End-to-End Encryption
Just like every 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 report, a WhatsApp spokesperson said the following: “WhatsApp provides a way for people to report spam or abuse, which includes sharing the most recent messages in a chat. This feature is important for preventing the worst abuse on the internet. We strongly disagree with the notion that accepting reports a user chooses to send us is incompatible with end-to-end encryption.”
Soon after WhatsApp’s statement, ProPublica has updated the post to clarify the original report. “A previous version of this story caused unintended confusion about the extent to which WhatsApp examines its users’ messages and whether it breaks the encryption that keeps the exchanges secret. We’ve altered language in the story to make clear that the company examines only messages from threads that have been reported by users as possibly abusive. It does not break end-to-end encryption,” reads the update.
Reporting a message would not break end-to-end encryption since the intention of reporting feature is to help avoid negative interactions in the platform. You can learn more about WhatsApp’s security model in our detailed WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal comparison.