WhatsApp claims to have banned over 2 million accounts in less than a month in order to prevent harmful behaviour
WhatsApp claims that between May 15 and June 15, 2021, it banned 20 lakh accounts in an effort to curb disruptive behaviour. The corporation announced that it had banned 20,11,000 accounts in this one-month period in its first transparency report, which was published under the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The +91 country code of the cell number used to register identifies Indian accounts on the Facebook-owned messaging app. It further stated that India alone accounts for 25% of all banned accounts worldwide.
WhatsApp released the first edition of its intermediary standards report, in which the firm emphasised its own efforts to avoid harmful behaviour. “Our primary priority is to prevent accounts from delivering damaging or undesired messages at scale,” WhatsApp said in a report sent to Gadgets 360 via email. “We retain advanced ability to identify these accounts sending a high or irregular rate of messages, and we banned 2 million accounts attempting this form of abuse in India alone from May 15 to June 15.”
“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.
WhatsApp received 70 reports for account assistance, 204 for ban appeals (of which it acted on 63), 20 for other support, 43 for product support, and 8 for “safety issues,” according to the company. It went on to say that after the service recognised “automated bulk messaging,” or spam, nearly 95 per cent (or 19 lakh) of the account bans were carried out automatically.
The number of accounts banned has climbed dramatically since 2019, according to the company, since “our systems have become more sophisticated, so we are capturing more accounts even as we believe there are more attempts to send bulk or automated messages.”
According to WhatsApp’s study, the global average for account bans is around 8 million per month, which means that bans in India (often for mass messaging or spam) accounted for a quarter of all global bans. This is unsurprising given that India is WhatsApp’s largest market; according to industry estimates, India has almost 400 million active users out of a total of 2 billion active users, or around one user for every five WhatsApp users. WhatsApp also stated that future versions of the data transparency report would be released 30-45 days after the reporting period had ended, to allow for adequate data collection and validation.