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  • Isabel Encinares

WhatsApp Blocks Two Million Users From Using the Messaging App

Due to various users breaking a not very well-known rule, WhatsApp has blocked over two million users in India in an attempt to limit the spread of hoaxes and fake news. The messaging app, which currently has around two billion users, conducted the mass purge of the accounts from May 15 up until June 15. According to WhatsApp, the company targeted accounts that were sending a “high and abnormal rate of messages.”

The company also added that over 95% of the account bans were “due to the unauthorized use of automated or bulk messaging”, and were not due to normal texting nor its contents.

As of writing, India is currently the region with the most WhatsApp users, with numbers adding up to 400 million active users. According to reports, the WhatsApp bans were triggered whenever users forwarded and shared messaging too many times, which ultimately violated the messaging app’s strict new limit on how many times users are allowed to forward one message to other people and groups.

The said limit was first announced in April 2020 as WhatsApp was trying to find ways to combat spam and the spread of viral rumors, photos, hoaxes, and news. However, as the app has started to pick up in India as a result of it being released on android, this rule has since started to show problems. Many Indian users rely on the app for news, but messages containing “fake news” have caused numerous outbreaks of violence all across the country.

WhatsApp’s current rules mean that, if a user receives a frequently forwarded message, or one that has been forwarded over five times, they may only forward it to one chat at a time. This is one-fifth of the app's previous limit from back in 2019. It should be noted that, with WhatsApp using AI technology to block accounts around the world, this 2 million account ban is not the first to ever happen. According to the company, they block around eight million WhatsApp accounts every month.

Information such as profile photos, group photos, descriptions, and “behavioral signals” of different accounts are all considered when blocking or banning accounts. Moreover, reports submitted by other WhatsApp users have also been used to block and catch different violators.

According to WhatsApp:

“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."

They have also added that the company does not see nor read any of the spam messages in the app, due to end-to-end encryption and its privacy policy.

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