WhatsApp reportedly rejected draft rules which would require tech companies to give the Indian government access to encrypted messages, but said it is using artificial intelligence (AI) to ban suspicious accounts.
The company is under the spotlight following accusations political parties are misusing the platform ahead of national elections scheduled to take place in April and May. In 2018 WhatsApp was heavily criticised for failing to quell the spread of misinformation which was linked to outbreaks of violence in the country.
India is the company’s biggest market, accounting for 200 million of its 1.5 billion monthly active users.
WhatsApp told reporters it is using AI tools to detect and ban accounts sending a high volume of messages, or which appear to be sending messages from an automated source. It reportedly banned more than 6 million accounts over the past three months, though it is unclear how many of these were from India.
In a media statement, WhatsApp said efforts to supress misinformation are “particularly important during elections, where certain groups may attempt to send messages at scale”. However, head of communications Carl Woog explained it would be impossible for WhatsApp to comply with the draft rules without a major overhaul of the app.
He told reporters the proposal was “over broad” and “not consistent with the strong privacy protections that are important to people everywhere”.
Commenting on misusing WhatsApp for elections, Woog reportedly said: “We saw how parties tried to reach people over WhatsApp, and in some cases that involved attempting to use WhatsApp in a way that it was not intended to be used…We have engaged with political parties to explain our firm view that WhatsApp is not a broadcast platform,” adding that it would ban such accounts.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back