Social media platform WhatsApp banned record 74,52,500 accounts in April, a sharp increase of 58.02% month-on-month, in order to prevent possible online abuse. This is the highest number of accounts banned by the social media platform in over 12 months. WhatsApp banned 47.15 lakh accounts in March, 45.97 lakh accounts in February, and 29.18 lakh accounts in January.
According to the 'WhatsApp India Monthly Report' under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, the instant messaging platform received a total of 4,377 complaints in relation to a possible privacy infringement, of which actions were taken against 234 accounts. The company received 4,100 complaints with the ban appeal, of which actions were taken against 223 accounts.
The company said that abuse detection operates at three stages of an account’s lifestyle: at registration, during messaging, and in response to negative feedback, which WhatsApp receives in the form of user reports and blocks. A team of analysts augments these systems to evaluate edge cases and help improve the platform's effectiveness over time.
"In addition to responding to and actioning on user complaints through the grievance channel, WhatsApp also deploys tools and resources to prevent harmful behaviour on the platform. 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 social media platform said.
An increase in the number of international calls on WhatsApp is touted to be one of the major reasons for a surge in account bans in April. Over the past several months, users in India have complained about getting missed calls on WhatsApp from unknown international numbers. These calls come from phone numbers that begin with +880 (Bangladesh), +251 (Ethiopia), +60 (Malaysia), +62 (Indonesia), +254 (Kenya), and +84 (Vietnam) among others.
According to a Truecaller report, mobile phone users in India get nearly 17 spam calls on average per month. The vast majority, around 93.5%, of all spam in India are sales or telemarketing calls. India is one of the biggest markets for WhatsApp, where it has the most monthly active users at around 400 million. In January 2021, India’s antitrust regulator launched a probe against WhatsApp for sharing users' data with its parent Meta. The Competition Commission of India is investigating WhatsApp and Facebook over alleged violations of users’ privacy and competition norms.
In order to enhance its privacy features, WhatsApp launched a new feature that allows users to put a conversation in a folder that can only be accessed with their device's password or biometric, like a fingerprint last month. The Chat Lock feature on WhatsApp lets users protect most intimate conversations behind one more layer of security. The company is rolling out Chat Lock globally on WhatsApp.