Spam and Misinformation: WhatsApp Blocks Over 2 Million India Accounts

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Spam and Misinformation: WhatsApp Blocks Over 2 Million India Accounts

The abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: at registration; during messaging; and in response to negative feedback, which WhatsApp receives in the form of user reports and blocks.

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  • WhatsApp blocked 2,000,000 India accounts last month for rules violations.
  • 95% of the accounts were blocked for exceeding limits placed on the number of times messages can be forwarded in the country.
  • WhatsApp’s “top focus” is to prevent the spread of harmful and unwanted messages.

US-based multiplatform messaging app WhatsApp reported that it has banned more than 2,000,000 accounts in India between May and June of this year for rules violations, including ‘harmful behavior’ and sending a ‘high and abnormal rate of messages.’

While 2 million is only a fraction of platforms 400 million-strong user base in India, the number of banned accounts is significant since it is about a quarter of the 8 million bans WhatApp hands down globally each month.

Noting that 95% of the accounts were blocked for exceeding limits placed on the number of times messages can be forwarded in the country, the platform said its “top focus” has been to prevent the spread of harmful and unwanted messages.

“The abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: at registration; during messaging; and in response to negative feedback, which we receive in the form of user reports and blocks,” WhatsApp said in its report.

While user-to-user conversations on the platform remain encrypted and private, WhatsApp said it pays “close attention to user feedback” and engages with a team of specialists and analysts to evaluate “edge cases” and improve effectiveness against misinformation.

In addition to responding to user complaints, WhatsApp said it relied on “behavioral signals” from user accounts, available “unencrypted information,” profile and group photos, and descriptions to identify potential offenders.

Social media and communications platforms have to publish monthly reports that list details of its actions under the country’s new Information Technology rules. This was the Facebook-owned messaging application’s first such report since the rules came into effect recently.

Despite publishing the report, WhatsApp has continued to refuse to disclose the initial sources of fake news, hoaxes and illegal viral messages that have been blamed by the government as having incited mob violence in the country.

Although India’s the new IT rules have a traceability clause that requires platforms to track and reveal the accounts from where such messages originate, WhatsApp has challenged this obligation in court on the grounds that user privacy would be affected.

In May, the company filed a lawsuit in the High Court of the national capital New Delhi that argued the provision was a “dangerous invasion of privacy” and would break the app’s much-touted end-to-end encryption that apparently ensures messages can only be read by the sender and receiver.

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