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 from the month of May 15 to June 15 2021, 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 lynchings and other crimes due to fake, viral messaging said its sweeping action was based on information gathered through technological tools and user feedback.
WhatsApp on Thursday released its first monthly report in compliance with the new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code also known as the IT Rules, 2021. The report, published for the period between May 15 and June 15, 2021, states that during this 30-day period, WhatsApp banned a total of 2 million India accounts, while it received a total of 345 reports during this period.
“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,” WhatsApp said in its report.
Apart from WhatsApp, Facebook also released another report on Thursday detailing the information on grievances it had received during the May 15 to June 15, 2021 period, received from users in India via the grievance mechanisms.
As per the report, Facebook received 646 reports through the various grievance mechanisms and responded to all the complaints. It received 73 complaints from users about fake profiles that were impersonating them, while it received 198 complaints of accounts being hacked. There were also 22 requests to access personal data by users, while 18 complaints were regarding inappropriate or abusive content.
“Of these incoming reports, we provided tools for users to resolve their issues in 363 cases. These include pre-established channels to report content for specific violations, self-remediation flows where they can download their data, avenues to address account hacked issues,” Facebook said in its report.
Similarly, Instagram said its grievance officer recieved 36 complaints in the period, including related to hacking of accounts, and nudity/partial nudity or in sexual act.
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.