A global messaging platform, WhatsApp, has said that it has banned 26 lakh accounts in India in September alone under the grounds of new Information Technology rules that are being amended to monitor the social media platforms and to put more responsibility on them in curbing online abuses. The number of accounts banned by WhatsApp in September was 15% higher than the accounts that were banned in August.
The company shared the details on Tuesday and these accounts were banned based on the complaints received and based on WhatsApp's own preventive actions. In a statement, WhatsApp's spokesperson said, "In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, we have published our report for the month of September 2022. This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp's own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform."
WhatsApp has nearly 500 million users in India and it has banned 23 lakh accounts in August. According to IANS, under the upgraded IT rules 2021, major digital and social media platforms, with in excess of five million users, have to publish monthly compliance reports. Meanwhile, in a major push towards an open, safe, trusted, and accountable Internet, the Ministry of Electronics and IT has notified some amendments aimed at protecting the rights of 'Digital Nagrik', which is the Prime Minister's vision of digitalization of the government and fostering a connection with the citizens.
Currently, social media platforms are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. The amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content. The amendments were notified after the Ministry followed an exhaustive public consultation process involving all stakeholders. The new provisions will ensure that the intermediary's obligation won't end up as a formality.
In its User Safety Report for the month of September, WhatsApp said, "Between September 01, 2022, and September 30, 2022, a total of 2,685,000 WhatsApp accounts were banned. 872,000 of these accounts were proactively banned, before any reports from users." In its report, the messaging platform said that it has received 666 grievances in September from the users but took action only against 23.
"In addition to responding to and actioning on user complaints through the grievance channel, WhatsApp also deploys tools and resources to prevent harmful behavior 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 company added.
In July, WhatsApp has banned over 23 lakh accounts in India. It must be noted that the union government has last week announced rules for setting up a grievance appeal mechanism against arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or take-down decisions of big tech companies.