WhatsApp banned 2 million Indian accounts in a month

WhatsApp banned 2 million Indian accounts in a month
Photo Credit: Reuters
16 Jul, 2021

Messaging platform WhatsApp banned about two million accounts linked to Indian numbers (starting with +91) between May 15 and June 15. 

In its monthly transparency report, published under the new IT Rules, the Facebook-owned company said the action was taken proactively in the interest of preventing online abuse and keeping users safe.  

More than 95% of such bans are due to users attempting to send bulk or automated messages, WhatsApp said while noting that the platform bans about 8 million accounts every month on a global basis.  

It uses AI-based detection tools and resources as well as unencrypted data such as user reports, profile photos, and group photos and descriptions to prevent accounts from sending harmful or 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. A team of analysts augments these systems to evaluate edge cases and help improve our effectiveness over time,” WhatsApp said. 

Messages sent/received on the platform continue to remain end-to-end encrypted, the company emphasised in the report – the first one from it under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code that went into effect on May 26. 

The report also details the action taken by the company in response to complaints/requests sent by users to Paresh B Lal, its grievance officer for the country. 

In the one month from May 15, Lal received a total of 345 reports, with a majority -- 317 to be precise -- being related to restoration of a ban or product/account support. 

After reviewing these complaints, WhatsApp said it took action for 63 accounts, either banning or restoring them. Other requests didn’t require accounts to be actioned. 

The IT rules also require WhatsApp to work around encryption for identifying the originator of harmful messages. However, the platform has challenged that demand in a legal petition against the government of India at the Delhi High Court. 

“Requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” a spokesperson from the company said back in May.