WhatsApp assured that fake news circulated on their app won’t affect the upcoming elections. They provided details on the changes made which will curb the spreading of fake news. They also said that India has given them 200 million monthly active users as of February 2018 and has also helped the app gain popularity all over the world to test their new offerings, which includes payments and a platform for businesses.
Carl Woog, the Head of Communications of WhatsApp, during a session with the media in New Delhi, said- “Being a private communications platform, we believe that it is extremely essential to maintain the private nature of such a service. And to that end, our top priority will be to build an automated behaviour of WhatsApp which will help deal with bulk messaging since this can be a source of clickbait, as well as a source of problematic content for the valuable users.“
Spread of false messages via WhatsApp has resulted in serious accidents and WhatsApp has been responsible in circulating such misinformation. Since then, WhatsApp has developed features which would limit forward messages and labeling forwarded messages as “forwarded”.
WhatsApp recently made a few changes to groups. They added an option of allowing group administrators to decide who could send messages in the groups and the ability to “report” or “exit the group” for new members in one tap.
In addition to this, WhatsApp removed more than two million accounts per month which were used to send bulk or automated messages. Users have an option of “Reporting” a message as Spam.
A Grievance Officer has been identified who will allow users to directly highlight the concerns related to their WhatsApp experience.
WhatsApp has had training sessions which include awareness regarding the banning of accounts which send bulk messages to WhatsApp users without their permission.
Woong said- “An election is coming up in India, and we wish to explain a few steps which we will do to prepare for those elections and will contribute to safety during the election time. In fact, we have been preparing for it since Karnataka’s voting session last May, and that time, we observed how parties tried to reach people through WhatsApp and in some cases it tried to use WhatsApp in a way which it wasn’t intended to be.”
During the presentation, Jones said that WhatsApp has been using an Adversarial Approach which would begin when a user registers on the app. The registration process has a two-step verification which would prevent attackers from trying to build scam accounts. About 20 percent of WhatsApp accounts would be banned during the registration stage with the help of making systems capable of judging their user behaviours. In addition to the end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp will provide the feature of analysing the frequency of account activity which will help systems understand the normal and abnormal behaviours of users. It also receives signals from accounts which send bulk messages to a large number of people at some point in time. Detection mechanisms have been added which will target automation and would filter out spammers from their user base using machine learning algorithms.
If a user reports or blocks a sender’s account, the team at WhatsApp would examine the reported account and based on these reports, the team at WhatsApp would enhance their Machine Learning Algorithms.
WhatsApp spokesperson said- “When we receive reports, our team here reads them in all the major Indian languages.”
Woog said that WhatsApp will use a separate system for business users. And the filters used in WhatsApp will help curb spammers. What this means is that the company won’t be able to detect specifications of spam users on their platform. It only has the ability to detect whether or not the bulk messages are being sent from India or some other regions.
For the upcoming elections, Woog has highlighted that WhatsApp has been working along with the Election Commission and has been busy educating political parties regarding the ethics of messaging platform.