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WhatsApp Wrote To IT Ministry That It Is Horrified By Acts Of Violence

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year

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WhatsApp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device.

Taking cognisance of the Indian government’s concerns over the misuse of its platform for repeated circulation of provocative content, Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Wednesday wrote to the IT Ministry, saying the company is horrified by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry on Tuesday asked WhatsApp to take immediate action and ensure that the platform is not used for such malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours and provocation circulated on the mobile messaging platform.

“Thank you for your letter dated July 2. Like the Government of India, we’re horrified by these terrible acts of violence and wanted to respond quickly to the very important issues you have raised. We believe this is a challenge that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together,” WhatsApp said in the reply to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

WhatsApp, which has over 200 million monthly active users in India, listed several measures it is taking or has already put in action to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform.

“We have been testing a new label in India that highlights when a message has been forwarded versus composed by the sender.

“This could serve as an important signal for recipients to think twice before forwarding messages because it lets a user know if content they received was written by the person they know or a potential rumor from someone else. We plan to launch this new feature soon,” the company informed.

According to media reports, over 30 people have been killed in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

In Mid-May, said WhatsApp, it added new protections to prevent people from adding others back into groups which they had left — a form of misuse they thought it is important to correct.

WhatsApp Logo
WhatsApp Logo. Image source: Pixabay

“Last week, we launched a new setting that enables administrators to decide who gets to send messages within individual groups. This will help reduce the spread of unwanted messages into important group conversations – as well as the forwarding of hoaxes and other content,” the popular messaging platform noted.

WhatsApp has also announced a new project to work with leading academic experts in India to learn more about the spread of misinformation.

“The fact-checking organisation Boom Live is available on WhatsApp and has published some reports on the source of the rumours that have contributed to the recent violence,” the company said.

While WhatsApp messages can be highly viral, the way people use the app is by nature still very private.

“Many people (nearly 25 per cent in India) are not in a group; the majority of groups continue to be small (less than 10 people); and nine in 10 messages are still sent from just one person to another,” WhatsApp informed.

The company also asked to Indian government to talk further about the actions it is taking and its plans going forward.

“With the right action we can help improve everyone’s safety by ensuring communities are better equipped to deal with malicious hoaxes and false information — while still enabling people to communicate reliably and privately across India,” it noted.

Also read: WhatsApp Copies Telegram to Add One-way ‘Broadcast’ Mode to Group Chats

WhatsApp also announced to soon start an engagement programme with the law enforcement officials across the country so “they are familiar with our approach and how we can be helpful”. (IANS)

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WhatsApp Removing 2 Million Accounts Every Month For Bulk Behaviour

"This team will include local legal, policy and business teams that can work with our Indian partners on common goals, such as increasing financial inclusion and digital literacy across India," it added

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whatsapp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is removing at least two million accounts each month for bulk or automated behaviour and over 75 per cent of those without recent user reports.

According to the company, these efforts are particularly important during elections where certain groups may attempt to send messages at scale.

“While there are many actors trying to abuse the free service we provide, we are constantly advancing our anti-abuse operations to keep the platform safe,” WhatsApp said in a statement on Thursday.

WhatsApp is banning accounts that send a high volume of messages.

“We’re able to detect and ban many accounts before they register a” preventing them from sending a single message. Roughly 20 per cent of account bans happened at registration time,” the company informed.

WhatsApp which has over 200 million users in India aims to understand the behavioural cues indicating bulk registrations.

WhatsApp
WhatsApp on a smartphone device.

“For example, our systems can detect if a similar phone number has been recently abused or if the computer network used for registration has been associated with suspicious behaviour,” it added.

As part of establishing its operations in India, WhatsApp said it has identified a Grievance Officer who can be contacted directly if a user has a concern about their WhatsApp experience and is unable to report it through other channels.

WhatsApp said it facilitated training for political parties in states that went into elections in 2018.

Also Read- Now AI Can Identify Microscopic Marine Organisms

“We will expand this effort and work with the Election Commission of India in the lead up to the national election this year, said WhatsApp.

WhatsApp recently hired Abhijit Bose to lead India operations who will grow a local team that can further develop relationships with civil society and respond to the government on a timely basis.

“This team will include local legal, policy and business teams that can work with our Indian partners on common goals, such as increasing financial inclusion and digital literacy across India,” it added. (IANS)