On July 15, Whatsapp reported that it had banned as many as 2 million Indian Whatsapp users last month. The information is a part of a monthly report which has been requested by the Indian Government under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
Under the first compliance report published as a response to the IT rules, Whatsapp has stated that between May 15 to June 15, 2021. It has banned more than 95% of WhatsApp accounts due to spam or unauthorized use. Around 345 queries were raised by Indian users, which the platform acted on using the grievance redressal model.
Using these models, 63 accounts had been banned or restricted as per the charges levied. Whatsapp has been working to tackle abuse on the platform. In the report, they shared three steps on how the facebook-owned social media platform detects abuse – first during registration, the second while messaging, and third response to negative feedback and blocking of accounts by users.
It also relies on the unencrypted information available, including reports, descriptions, group photos, and profile photos.
A team has been formed that works to tackle abuse and attempt to gather information for analysis via these measures and investigating the matter. An AI-based tool is also deployed to detect abuse automatically.
The company has also said, for transparency and efficacy reasons, they will be publishing reports every 30-45 days. The company has received 345 requests from May 15 to June 15. The requests include 70 account support queries, 43 product support queries, 204 appeals to a ban, while eight were safety-issue queries.
Of these, only 63 had been actioned on. The platform did not disclose the accounts of information queries. It reported that 95% of accounts on WhatsApp were spam accounts or used in unauthorized manners, which the company has banned or has put restrictions on the accounts.
The platform has deployed a team of law enforcement, analysts, data scientists, engineers, researchers, and development departments to oversee online safety, working alongside the AI software installed to detect online harassment and unauthorized messages.
The top priority of the messaging platform is to prevent harmful, hateful, and unwanted messages from being sent to other users of the platform. As a result, many accounts across India were banned.
They received queries on the subject, many users were raising questions on why their accounts were banned, while many furiously asked the platform to restore their accounts. This action is one-fourth of the bans which Whatsapp carries out globally due to harmful messages or behavior by users of the platform.
The company said it believes in detecting the harmful behaviour at the first stage itself and hence has deployed tools and mechanisms to work on it.
Whatsapp is fighting a case with the Indian government over the traceability clause mentioned in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It has been opposing the feature on traceability because it requires tracking the first sender of the message.
The company is hesitant to share the first source of a message on claims that it violates the privacy rights of internet users. The messaging giant has challenged the decision by the central government in Delhi High Court. The company has said the one-to-one messages in the platform fall under encryption and hence should remain private.
Under the new IT rules, social media intermediaries with over 5 million users in the country have to submit a compliance report monthly to the Indian government. Earlier this month, companies such as Whatsapp, and its parent company, Facebook, microblogging site Twitter, and search engine Google had filed the reports.
The parent of WhatsApp, Facebook, had earlier removed 3.2 crore posts in a month due to reports of harassment, bullying, nudity, and violent content. The reports do not provide information about censorship imposed by the government on users of the platforms.
Facebook had received a total of 646 complaints in the same period, which included seventy-three reports of fake profiles, 198 issues concerning hacked accounts, thirty-six about nudity or sexual acts. 363 cases were resolved and 297 were reviewed by the team of Facebook and subsequently, 47 accounts faced actions along 250 restricted accounts.
Instagram had revealed that they received 36 complaints during the time frame, which included twenty-five accounts for nudity and sexual acts while seven for hacked accounts. Subsequently, ten issues were resolved and twenty pieces of complaints were reviewed by the team.