India Assembly polls: WhatsApp says taking action on bulk messaging

IANS File Photo

IANS File Photo

New Delhi, January 31 (IANS): Meta-owned WhatsApp on Monday said it is taking action on accounts engaging in automated and bulk messaging at a time when political parties and individual candidates are misusing the platform for reaching out to voters ahead of the Assembly elections in five states.

Reacting to an IANS story on how the bulk WhatsApp API (application programming interface) tools are helping parties and candidates send political messages to the voters' WhatsApp for just 8 to 10 paise per bulk message in a fraction of seconds, the popular mobile messaging platform said that it deeply cares about the online security of its users as well as about preserving election integrity.

"WhatsApp has advanced spam detection technology that works round the clock to spot and take action on accounts engaging in automated and bulk messaging, which includes banning such accounts for violating WhatsApp's Terms of Service," said the company spokesperson.

In December 2019, the company had said that it will be taking legal action against those who are engaged in or assisting others in abusing the platform by sending bulk or automated messages.

However, such automated bulk messages are back in action, and the WhatsApp policy against individuals and companies who misuse the app by sending such bulk messages in violation of its terms and conditions is being "violated at a large scale in the electoral campaign in the five states," according to experts.

WhatsApp said that the company has "also devoted efforts from a product and an education standpoint, to empower users with resources that help them verify information".

"For example, our limits imposed on 'forwards' have reduced the spread of 'highly forwarded messages' on WhatsApp by over 70 per cent, therefore, actively constraining virality on the platform. We encourage users to block and report accounts they find suspicious or if they receive problematic messages from them," the WhatsApp spokesperson told IANS.

The company said it is working with 10 fact-checking organisations that are enabled on the WhatsApp Business platform and are accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network.

WhatsApp has over 400 million users in the country. However, according to third-party market and consumer data platform Statista, it now has more than 487 million users in the country.

The Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur will be completed in seven phases with Uttar Pradesh being the first to go to the polls on February 10, even as the country battles the Omicron-led Covid wave.

The counting of votes will be taken up on March 10.