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WhatsApp banned over 19 lakh Indian accounts in May for breaching rules

July 01, 2022 19:28 IST

Meta-owned WhatsApp banned over 19 lakh Indian accounts in May on the basis of complaints received from users via its grievances channel and through its own mechanism to prevent and detect violations, as per the latest monthly report published by the messaging platform.

Image used for representational purpose only. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters

The new IT rules which came into effect last year mandate large digital platforms (with over 50 lakh users) to publish compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.

"As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 1.9 million accounts in the month of May," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

 

The user-safety report has details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as its own preventive actions to combat abuse on the platform, the spokesperson added.

An Indian account is identified via the +91 phone number prefix.

According to the report released on Friday, 19.10 lakh Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp between May 1 and May 31, 2022, using the "abuse detection approach, which also includes action taken in furtherance to negative feedback received from users..."

In comparison, the messaging platform had banned over 16 lakh accounts of Indian users in the month of April, and 18.05 lakh such accounts in March.

"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," the spokesperson further said.

As many as 528 grievance reports were received, and 24 accounts were "actioned" during May 2022. Out of the total reports received, 303 pertained to 'ban appeal' while others were in the categories of account support, product support and safety, among others.

"We respond to all grievances received except in cases where a grievance is deemed to be a duplicate of a previous ticket. An account is 'actioned' when an account is banned or a previously banned account is restored, as a result of a complaint," the report said.

The government is in the midst of finalising new social media rules that propose to give users a grievance appeal mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or takedown decisions of big tech companies.

The IT ministry, last month, circulated the draft rules that propose a government panel to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints made, or against content-related decisions taken by grievance officers of social media platforms.

At present, "there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place", the ministry had said.

Big social media firms have drawn flak in the past over hate speech, misinformation and fake news circulating on their platforms. Concerns have also been raised about digital platforms acting arbitrarily in pulling down content, and 'de-platforming' users.

The government had last year notified IT rules to make digital intermediaries more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platforms.

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