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WhatsApp banned 3m Indian accounts, says 2nd compliance report

By Neha Alawadhi
September 01, 2021 12:49 IST
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Indian accounts, identified by the "+91" in their mobile numbers, were actioned through WhatsApp's prevention and detection methods, for violating either the laws of India or the company’s Terms of Service, the firm said in its compliance report.

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters.

WhatsApp banned over 3 million Indian accounts on the messaging service in the 46-day period from June 16 to July 31, 2021, the firm said in its second compliance report under the new Information Technology Rules, 2021.

 

It received 137 reports for account support, of which one was actioned, and 316 requests to ban accounts, of which 73 were actioned, the messaging giant said in the report. It banned a total of 3,027,000 accounts in the reported period.

“WhatsApp is an industry leader in preventing abuse, among end-to-end encrypted messaging services. Over the years, we have consistently invested in Artificial Intelligence and other state of the art technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform. In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, we’ve published our second monthly report for the 46 day period of--16 June to 31 July. This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp’s own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson.

Indian accounts, identified by the "+91" in their mobile numbers, were actioned through WhatsApp's prevention and detection methods, for violating either the laws of India or the company’s Terms of Service, the firm said in its compliance report.

The complaints were received by WhatsApp through e-mails sent to grievance_officer_wa@support.whatsapp.com regarding violations of WhatsApp’s Terms of Service, or questions about accounts on WhatsApp, published in the Help Center or, mails received by the India Grievance Officer via post.

In its first compliance report, which covered the time between May 15 and June 15, WhatsApp had said it banned 2 million Indian users.

WhatsApp has previously spoken about preventing accounts from sending automated bulk spam at scale. It uses artificial intelligence to identify suspicious behaviour from accounts sending a high or abnormal rate of messages and bans millions of such accounts attempting this kind of abuse in India and across the world.

Since WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted platform, it has no visibility into the content of any messages, but in addition to behavioural signals from accounts, it also relies on available unencrypted information including user reports, profile photos, and group photos and descriptions, besides deploying advanced AI tools and resources to detect and prevent abuse on the platform.

Majority of users that reach out to WhatsApp are either aiming to have their account restored following an action to ban them or reaching out for product or account support.

The reports are a compliance requirement under the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules (“IT Rules”), 2021.

The Rules were notified on February 25, and ask significant social media intermediaries, or those with over 5 million users, to "publish periodic compliance report every month mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken thereon, and the number of specific communication links or parts of information that the intermediary has removed or disabled access to in pursuance of any proactive monitoring conducted by using automated tools or any other relevant information as may be specified".

The Rules came into force from May 26, and most SSMIs have complied with these, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Google said at the end of July that it removed over 1.5 lakh pieces of content based on complaints received in May and June, and over 98 per cent of these were related to copyright.

Google received 34,883 complaints in May 2021, and 36,265 in June 2021, according to details provided in the report. In May, 98.9 per cent (71,132) and in June, 99.3 per cent (83,613) removal action was taken because of copyright issues.

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Neha Alawadhi in New Delhi
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