WhatsApp bans 20 lakh Indian users | India News


NEW DELHI: Amid pressure to identify the original source of unlawful and inflammatory messaging, Facebook-owned instant messenger WhatsApp said on Thursday that it has banned over 20 lakh users in India during the month starting May 15, taking them down for “harmful behaviour”.
The company — which has been steadfast in its refusal to share the first source of illegal messages that have often been blamed by the government for incidents such as lynching and other crimes due to fake, viral messaging — said its sweeping action was based on information gathered through technological tools and user feedback.
The action in India is significant as it is nearly one-fourth of the global bans that WhatsApp carries out in a month related to harmful behaviour.
The disclosure comes as part of the mandate under the new IT Rules, although the company has challenged the traceability provision in the Delhi high court.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp’s parent Facebook had reported pulling down as many as 3.2 crore user posts in the same period, and these ranged from spam to adult nudity, bullying and harassment, and content around violent and graphic content.
Both the reports, however, gave no data on censures over government orders, or requests by political parties.
WhatsApp said it deploys tools and resources to “prevent harmful behaviour” on the platform. “We are particularly focused on prevention because we believe it is much better to stop harmful activity from happening in the first place than to detect it after harm has occurred. 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.”
The company said a “team of analysts augments these systems” to evaluate edge cases and help improve effectiveness over time.
It, however, insisted that person-to-person conversations on the platform are encrypted, and thus remain private.
WhatsApp said it pays “close attention to user feedback” while also engaging with specialists in stemming misinformation, promoting cybersecurity, and preserving election integrity.
“We are an industry leader among end-to-end encrypted messaging services in preventing and combating abuse. In addition to our safety features and controls, we employ a team of engineers, data scientists, analysts, researchers, and experts in law enforcement, online safety, and technology developments to oversee these efforts. We enable users to block contacts and to report problematic content and contacts to us from inside the app.”
Apart from the bans, WhatsApp said its India grievance officer received 345 user complaints, including on issues such as account and product support, safety and ban appeal. It overturned 63 ban appeals here.
Giving its report on user complaints, Facebook said it received 646 complaints in the same period, which included 198 related to ‘hacking of account’, 174 on ‘other issues’, 73 on ‘fake profile’, and 36 related to ‘nudity/partial nudity or in a sexual act’ heading. “Of these… we provided tools for users to resolve their issues in 363 cases… Of the other 297 reports where specialized review was needed, we reviewed content as per our policies. Of those, we took action on 47 pieces of content in total. The remaining 250 reports were reviewed but may not have been actioned due to the reasons explained above,” Facebook said.
Similarly, Instagram said its grievance officer received 36 complaints in the period, including related to hacking of accounts (7), and ‘nudity/partial nudity or in a sexual act’ (25). “Of these incoming reports, we provided tools for users to resolve their issues in 10 cases.” Of the other, we took action on 20 pieces of content.




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