WhatsApp has seen its fair share of controversy recently. Like Facebook, which owns the messaging app, WhatsApp has been guilty of facilitating the spread of fake news. This has seen the rise of a far-right politician winning the presidential elections in Brazil and a series of brutal murders and public lynchings in India. Pressure has been mounting for some time then, for WhatsApp to act and try to prevent some of the problems that have been spreading across the app.
We recently saw a move to prevent messages being forwarded more than five times, which cut at the heart of the spread of fake news. WhatsApp has also now released information about the number of accounts its banning on a monthly basis due to misuse of the platform.
WhatsApp bans more than 2 million accounts every month
This news comes via a white paper WhatsApp published in the build-up to the Indian general election, which is due to take place in May. Known as the Lok Sabha general election, the Indian election is the biggest democratic election on earth meaning there is massive potential for democracy-skewing efforts taking place across social networks and messaging apps.
The white paper states that over the last three months, WhatsApp has banned over 2 million accounts a month. Staggeringly, a huge 75% of these accounts were banned after they were reported by other users with 20% of blocked accounts being caught when they first registered. It is clear that users still have a huge role to play in rooting out abusive WhatsApp accounts.
A report by First Post also highlights efforts WhatsApp has been making to try and improve detection of automated accounts. The messaging app is constantly being targeted by fake accounts run on emulators or machines that are then used to amplify the spread of fake news and bombard genuine users with spam messages. One such effort is the platform’s new ability to detect accounts that continuously send messages without activating the text bar or typing cursor.
WhatsApp has been coming under increasing fire from the Indian government due to the well-documented problems it has been causing in the country. With such a huge democratic exercise fast approaching this year, however, there is global pressure on the messaging app to get its house in order. Banning abusive accounts and improving detection methods should represent just the tip of the iceberg. If the world watches WhatsApp help skew the biggest democratic elections on the planet, it may be the messaging app itself that faces a public execution.