Over 22 lakh Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp in June on the basis of complaints received via its grievance redressal channel and through its own mechanism to detect violations.
Earlier, 19 lakh such accounts were banned by WhatsApp in May, 16 lakh accounts in April, and 18.05 lakh in March.
The tougher IT rules, which came into effect last year, mandate large digital platforms (with over 50 lakh users) to publish compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.
Big social media firms have drawn flak in the past over hate speech, misinformation and fake news circulating on their platforms.
At times, concerns have also been flagged over digital platforms acting arbitrarily in pulling down content, and ‘de-platforming’ users.
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The government is in the midst of formulating new social media norms that propose to give users a grievance appeal mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or takedown decisions of big tech companies.
“Between 1 July 2022 and 31 July 2022, 2,387,000 WhatsApp accounts were banned. 1,416,000 of these accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users,” WhatsApp said in its monthly compliance report.
In addition to responding to and actioning on user complaints through the grievance channel, WhatsApp said it also deploys tools and resources to prevent harmful behaviour on the platform.
“We are particularly focused on prevention because we believe it is much better to stop harmful activity from happening in the first place than to detect it after harm has occurred,” the Meta-owned platform said in its latest monthly update.
The user-safety report contains details of the complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as its own preventive actions to combat abuse on the platform.
“As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 2.3 million accounts in the month of July,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
An Indian account is identified via the +91 phone number prefix.
“The data shared…highlights the number of Indian accounts banned by WhatsApp between 1 July 2022 – 31 July 2022 using the…abuse detection approach, which also includes action taken in furtherance to negative feedback received from users via our ‘Report’ feature,” it said.
As many as 574 grievance reports were received, and 27 accounts were “actioned” during July 2022.
Of the total reports received, 392 pertained to ‘ban appeal’ while others were in the categories of account support, product support and safety, among others.
“We respond to all grievances received except in cases where a grievance is deemed to be a duplicate of a previous ticket. An account is ‘actioned’ when an account is banned or a previously banned account is restored, as a result of a complaint,” the report said.
The IT ministry, in June, circulated the draft rules that propose a panel to hear user appeals against inaction on complaints made, or against content-related decisions taken by grievance officers of social media platforms.
At present, “there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place”, the ministry had said.
The government had last year notified IT rules to make digital intermediaries more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platforms.
“We will continue with the transparency to our work and include information about our efforts in future reports,” WhatsApp said.
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