WhatsApp’s latest compliance report shows that it blocked over 1.7 million accounts in the month of November. During that period, the app also received 602 user grievances through its grievance officer who has been appointed in accordance with the IT Rules.
WhatsApp takes action against problematic accounts for violating Indian law and its own community guidelines, according to the report. Under the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, WhatsApp has to publish monthly compliance reports showing the number of grievances it received, the content it took down, and other details.
WhatsApp has become a medium for fake news leading to several instances of communal violence in India. The platform’s compliance reports indicate the amount of such content and how it is being moderated.
How WhatsApp knew which accounts to ban
The report revealed that exactly 1,759,000 accounts were banned by WhatsApp in November. The platforms said that it detected these accounts at registration, during messaging, and in response to negative feedback like user reports and blocks.
This figure is lower than the corresponding number for October (2,069,000 accounts banned).
Grievance officer restored 36 WhatsApp accounts
The number of user grievances/reports (602) sent to WhatsApp increased from October when it received 500 grievances. Out of the grievances registered in November, WhatsApp acted on 36 of them, all of which were appeals from users to lift the ban on their accounts.
User grievances are categorised under various topics such as ‘safety’ which relates to grievances ‘that may be about abuse or harmful behaviour on the platform’.
Why have some user reports been reviewed but not listed as actioned? WhatsApp gave these reasons:
- The user requires assistance from us to access their account.
- The user requires assistance to use one of our features.
- The user is writing to us to provide feedback regarding our service.
- The user requests restoration of a banned account and the request is denied.
- The reported account does not violate the laws of India or our Terms of Service.
‘N/A’ could signify a grievance/report where actioning an account is not applicable, and accounts are listed as actioned if they were banned or restored after a ban, the report said.
What the IT Rules 2021 require
The IT Rules require social media intermediaries like WhatsApp to:
- Publish periodic compliance reports: These reports should be published every month and have details of complaints received, action taken, and “other relevant information”.
- Appoint key managerial roles: Significant social media intermediaries (with more than 50 lakh registered users) must appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer, all of whom must be Indian residents and employees of the platform.
- Proactively identify and take down content: This includes content moderation (through automated mechanisms) of posts that are defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of privacy, insulting or harassing on gender, and other types.
- Disable content within 36 hours of government order: The Rules also ask intermediaries to provide information for verification of identity or assist any government agency for crime prevention and investigations no later than 72 hours of receiving a lawful order. They also have to preserve records of disabled content for 180 days.
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