WhatsApp is on the offensive.
On Wednesday in New Delhi, WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, held a press conference to share how it is addressing false accounts and the dissemination of misinformation on its platform of 1.5 billion users.
The conference was especially urgent because India will hold its elections in April, and in India, where the largest user base of WhatsApp is located, is also where WhatsApp has seen dangerous abuses that led to violence and death.
According to a ZDNet report, WhatsApp has been able to automate much of the process of bots and spam capture, and even proactively prevent possible abuse. It bans 2 million accounts per month and, reportedly, captures 75 percent of those accounts without human intervention.
The abuse takes the form of false accounts and robots that are spammers, who try to steal information or even more infamous purposes, such as political and social manipulation. The population of India has shown that it is susceptible to this type of schemes, because many users of WhatsApp are new to the web and, therefore, have lower levels of digital literacy. WhatsApp has conducted public education campaigns to teach its users to be more careful with the messages and information they receive.
Of the 2 million accounts of WhatsApp bans per month, some of them do not even reach the platform. Apparently, WhatsApp can capture 20 percent of fake accounts during the registration process by comparing the locations of phone numbers and IP addresses. It is also able to determine if an account is false if it begins to participate immediately in a high level of activity just after subscribing, particularly mass messaging. This proactivity could mean that WhatsApp can detect malevolent activity before it has the chance to spread far and wide.
Mass messaging has been one of the ways in which false information has spread so quickly on WhatsApp, in India and elsewhere. It took measures to limit re-sending in 2018 by tagging messages forwarded as such and limiting the number of people to whom a message could be forwarded to five.
But in addition to imposing limits on users, WhatsApp has also become wiser because of the way networks are abusing this feature. He has found software that allows abusers to run multiple instances of the same account and devices that can handle multiple IP cards.
Whether the WhatsApp measures will be sufficient to support the integrity of the April elections remains to be seen. The government has already made demands on the platform to contain the abuse. And it is not an easy task to transmit complicated messages about bots, spam, false news and manipulation to inexperienced Internet users in a market of 200 million users in India.