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December 4, 2022 8:01 am

WhatsApp bans over 23.28 lakh Indian accounts in August

New Delhi, October 2

WhatsApp banned over 23.28 lakh Indian accounts in August, of which over 10 lakh accounts were proactively taken down before any report from users, the messaging platform said on Saturday.

This is lower than the level seen in the previous month. Over 23.87 lakh Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp in July.

“Between 1 August 2022 and 31 August 2022, 2,328,000 WhatsApp accounts were banned. 1,008,000 of these accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users,” WhatsApp said in its monthly compliance report.

An Indian account is identified via a +91 phone number.

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. Concerns have been flagged by some quarters time and again over digital platforms acting arbitrarily in pulling down content, and ‘de-platforming’ users.

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.

According to the latest report, as many as 598 grievance reports were received, and 19 accounts were “actioned” between August 1 and August 31, 2022.

Of the total reports received, 449 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.

In its compliance report, WhatsApp said: “We will continue with the transparency to our work and include information about our efforts in future reports.”

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