WhatsApp bans over 22 lakh Indian accounts in June

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WhatsApp has banned over 22 lakh Indian accounts in June on the basis of complaints received via its grievance redresal channel and through its own mechanism to detect violations, according to the messaging platform.

This is higher than 19 lakh such accounts banned by WhatsApp in May, 16 lakh accounts in April, and 18.05 lakh such accounts in March.

The new, tougher IT rules, which came into effect last year, mandate large digital platforms (with over 50 lakh users) to publish compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.

Big social media firms have drawn flak in the past over hate speech, misinformation and fake news circulating on their platforms. At times, concerns have also been flagged over digital platforms acting arbitrarily in pulling down content, and ‘de-platforming’ users.

“As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 2.2 million accounts in the month of June,” WhatsApp spokesperson said as the Meta-owned platform published its latest monthly update.

The user-safety report has details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as its own preventive actions to combat abuse on the platform, the spokesperson said.

An Indian account is identified via the +91 phone number prefix.

According to the report, 22.10 lakh Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp between June 1 and June 30, 2022 using the “abuse detection approach, which also includes action taken in furtherance to negative feedback received from users…”

“Over the years, we have consistently invested in artificial intelligence and other…technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform,” the spokesperson further said.

As many as 632 grievance reports were received, and 64 accounts were “actioned” during June 2022.

Of of the total reports received, 426 pertained to ‘ban appeal’ while others were in the categories of account support, product support and safety, among others.

“We respond to all grievances received except in cases where a grievance is deemed to be a duplicate of a previous ticket. An account is ‘actioned’ when an account is banned or a previously banned account is restored, as a result of a complaint,” the report said.

The government is in the midst of formulating new social media rules that propose to give users a grievance appeal mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or takedown decisions of big tech companies.

The IT ministry, in June, circulated the draft rules that propose a government panel to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints made, or against content-related decisions taken by grievance officers of social media platforms.

At present, “there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place”, the ministry had said.

The government had last year notified IT rules to make digital intermediaries more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platforms. (PTI)

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