WhatsApp says it will be shutting down spam from December – here’s how

Business Insider SA
  • WhatsApp is promising to start going after spammers hard starting on 7 December.
  • It is already building more and better automated systems to detect anything that isn't one-on-one communication. 
  • But WhatsApp also plans to start suing anyone who even claims they can send bulk messages on the platform.
  • For more visit Business Insider.

WhatsApp has promised to crack down – hard – on spam starting from 7 December this year.

On that very specific date, the Facebook-owned company said in an update on its website, it plans to start taking legal action against those who send bulk and "non-personal" messages through its system, and against those who help others to spam WhatsApp users.

And it will not only be looking for actual abuse. Even companies that publicly claim they have the ability to use Whatsapp to send big message blasts will be in the crosshairs.

"This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date," the company said. 

See also: Tired of WhatsApp groups? A brand-new setting gives you much more control

WhatsApp did not say why it had chosen that date, but it gives the third-party companies currently providing bulk-messaging services on the platform almost exactly six months to wind down their operations. 

Those companies have now started warning their customers that they can still send bulk messages until 7 December, but not after that date.

That includes companies that are verified under the WhatsApp Business Solution Providers programme, which gives them legal access to WhatsApp systems for business purposes.

In a white paper published in February, WhatsApp said its platform is built to be used by businesses as well as individuals – but only if those businesses want to talk to one customer at a time, not for broadcast messages.

See also: WhatsApp is cutting its forward limit to 5 from 20 – straight away

"WhatsApp was built for private messages: to help people chat with their loved ones, conduct business, or talk confidentially with a doctor. Instead of encouraging users to build an audience and share widely, WhatsApp is designed to help people share with others they know or get helpful information from a business."

The paper provided some detail of the automated systems WhatsApp currently uses or plans to build to fight spam, including politically-motivated messaging, by:

  • watching for phone numbers or IP addresses similar to those previously linked to suspicious behaviour, and preventing them from registering new accounts
  • detecting users that send messages without taking the time to type first, which point to automated use
  • banning accounts that quickly create a whole bunch of WhatsApp groups, or that add thousands of users to groups over a short space of time
  • banning newly-registered accounts that try to send a lot of messages very quickly
  • looking for high-intensity user behaviour that doesn't conform with the typical usage of tapping one message at a time, and forwarding content only occasionally.

Although reports from its users also form part of its detection system, 75% of the more than two million accounts it banned in late 2018 and early 2019 were not flagged by users, WhatsApp said. 

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