WhatsApp Says It Banned Over 2 Million Accounts in in One Month to Prevent Harmful Behaviour

WhatsApp says that it banned 20 lakh accounts between May 15 and June 15, 2021, to try and prevent harmful behaviour. In its first transparency report, published under the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the company revealed that it had banned 20,11,000 accounts in this one-month period. The Facebook-owned messaging platform identifies Indian accounts through the +91 country code of the mobile number used to register. It also added that India alone accounts for 25 percent of all the accounts banned in the world.

WhatsApp published the first edition of its intermediary guidelines report on Thursday, and in this, the company highlighted its own actions to prevent harmful behaviour. “Our top focus is preventing accounts from sending harmful or unwanted messages at scale,” WhatsApp said in its report that it also shared on email to Gadgets 360. “We maintain advanced capabilities to identify these accounts sending a high or abnormal rate of messages and banned 2 millions accounts in India alone from May 15 – June 15 attempting this kind of abuse.”

“In addition to the behavioural signals from accounts, we rely 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 our platform,” WhatsApp added.

According to WhatsApp, it received a total of 70 reports for account support, 204 for ban appeals (of which it took action on 63), 20 for other support, 43 for product support, and 8 for “safety issues”. It added that almost 95 percent (or 19 lakh) of the account bans were carried out automatically, after the service detected “automated bulk messaging”, or spam.

It added that the number of accounts that were banned has gone up significantly since 2019, because “our systems have increased in sophistication, so we are catching more accounts even as we believe there are more attempts to send bulk or automated messages.”

In its report, WhatsApp shared that the global average is about 8 million accounts banned per month, which is to say that bans in India (most of which were for bulk messaging or spam) accounted for a fourth of all the bans in the world.

This is not surprising given that India is the largest market for WhatsApp — some industry estimates suggest that India accounts for almost 400 million users, of the 2 billion active users worldwide, or approximately one user from India out of every five that WhatsApp has.

WhatsApp added that subsequent editions of the data transparency report will be published 30-45 days after the reporting period, to allow sufficient time for data collection and validation. 

Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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