WhatsApp said in its first ever compliance report published under the country’s strict new information technology rules that it blocked 2 million Indian user accounts in a month to prevent harmful behavior.
The new rules, which took effect in May, require social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report detailing how many complaints they received from Indian users and what actions they took. International technology companies must also hire local executives who can help regulate content and respond quickly to legal complaints.
More than 95 percent of the 2 million accounts blocked between May 15 and June 15 were banned “due to the unauthorized use of automated or bulk messaging,” according to the Facebook-owned messaging app.
“These numbers have increased significantly since 2019 because our systems have increased in sophistication,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Keep in mind, we ban the vast majority of these accounts proactively, without relying on any user reports.”
After viral hoaxes on its platform were blamed for a spate of mob violence in India, the service began restricting users’ ability to forward messages globally in 2018. According to a statement, the company blocks 8 million accounts per month on average around the world.
The app has over 400 million users in India, its largest market, and over 2 billion users globally.
While WhatsApp is following some of the new rules, it has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government over one of them. If questioned, Indian authorities want companies to track down the “first originator” of messages. Although the government has stated that such requests will only be made in the case of serious crime, WhatsApp is concerned that this move will effectively end any guarantee of user privacy by requiring the platform to track every message.
“Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business when the lawsuit was filed in May.