You Can’t Always Get What You Want / But You Get What You Need: Moderating E2EE Content

Note: Presentation times are in Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Tuesday, February 01, 2022 - 2:00 pm2:30 pm

Mallory Knodel, Center for Democracy & Technology


End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is an application of cryptography in online communications systems between endpoints. E2EE systems are unique in providing features of confidentiality, integrity and authenticity for users, yet these strong privacy and free expression guarantees create tension with legitimate needs for information controls. This talk proposes formal, feature- and requirement-based, and user centric definitions of end-to-end encryption that in aggregate are able to confront these tensions. Any improvements to E2EE should therefore strive to maximise the system's unique properties (confidentiality, integrity, authenticity), security and privacy goals, while balancing user experience through enhanced usability and availability. Concrete proposals for E2EE improvements were analysed thusly and the results will be presented. Improving mechanisms for user reporting and using existing metadata for platform abuse analysis are the most likely to preserve privacy and security guarantees for end-users, while also improving user experience. Both provide effective tools that can detect significant amounts of different types of problematic content on E2EE services, including abusive and harassing messages, spam, mis- and disinformation, and CSAM. Future research to improve these tools should measure efficacy for users while preserving E2EE systems’ unique guarantees.

Mallory Knodel, Center for Democracy & Technology

Mallory Knodel is the CTO at the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, DC. She is the co-chair of the Human Rights and Protocol Considerations research group of the Internet Research Task Force, co-chair of the Stay Home Meet Only Online working group of the IETF and an advisor to the Freedom Online Coalition. Mallory takes a human rights, people-centred approach to technology implementation and cybersecurity policy advocacy. Originally from the US, she has worked with grassroots organisations around the world. She has used free software throughout her professional career and considers herself a public interest technologist. She holds a B.S. in Physics and Mathematics and an M.A. in Science Education.

@conference {277321,
author = {Mallory Knodel},
title = {You {Can{\textquoteright}t} Always Get What You Want / But You Get What You Need: Moderating {E2EE} Content},
year = {2022},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb,

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