WhatsApp, arguably India’s most favourite instant messaging service with over 200 million daily active users have cracked down on fake and abusive contents circulated on its platform ahead of the much-awaited General Elections 2019.
WhatsApp warns political parties
Reportedly, Indian politicians, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls have been abusing and misusing the Facebook-owned app and Whatsapp has warned them to refrain from doing so. Moreover, it has said that the company will ban those accounts which are found guilty of missing the platform.
Carl Woog, head of communications at WhatsApp, said at a press meet on February 6, “We have seen a number of (political) parties attempt to use WhatsApp in ways that were not intended and our firm message to them is using it in that way will result in bans,” reported The Hindustan Times. He added that over the last several months, WhatsApp has been in talks with political parties to explain to them that WhatsApp is not a broadcasting platform and that it is not a place to send messages at scale.
Moreover, regardless of the purpose of the accounts, Whatsapp will ban those accounts that engage in automated bot behaviour. While WhatsApp’s global user base is over 1.5 billion, the platform has reportedly removed over 200 million accounts a month. WhatsApp also released a white paper titled “Stopping abuse: How WhatsApp fights bulk messaging and automated behaviour” while stating that its top priority is to stop automated behaviour. Moreover, the spokesperson said that Whatsapp has also engaged with political parties to make them aware of the terms of service.
“We have built sophisticated machine learning systems to detect abusive behaviour and ban suspicious accounts at registration,” he added. Moreover, the company said that it has been preparing for the general elections since the Karnataka state polls in 2018. Matt Jones, a software engineer on WhatsApp’s integrity team said that the company limited its pace of forwarding messages as a way to tackle abuse. The company stated that about 90% were from one person to another while the majority of the groups have less than 10 people.
WhatsApp over the last few years has faced a monumental challenge in India, especially with regard to tackling fake news and spread of misinformation. Although Whatsapp did not name the errant parties that are misusing WhatsApp, the platform has become a major campaigning tool for the BJP as well as the opposition. The problem, however, is not limited to India, the app was reportedly used to spread falsehoods ahead of the Brazilian elections in October. In India, WhatsApp came under major fire after news of people misusing the platform that gave rise to the phenomena of mob lynchings.