Whatsapp is reportedly banning some of its regular users from the private messaging platform for being a part of groups with suspicious or illegal names and subjects.
WABetaInfo shared that it has been receiving a lot of reports from users that have been banned from WhatsApp.
The first occurrence of this WhatsApp ban was reported by Reddit user Mowe11 who said that he was banned after his university group’s name was changed to ‘Child’s Pornography’. Whereafter each member of this said group was banned from WhatsApp without any prior notice.
When these users contacted WhatsApp, they received automatic responses saying that they’ve violated the rules of the messaging app. WhatsApp restored the accounts after a week of banning the users, but no clarification was given to them.
This was not all because more users reported similar incidents happening to their WhatsApp accounts. For example, one WhatsApp group with around 50 participants was banned after they had changed the group name to a ‘disgusting’ one. The group name was changed at noon and all members were banned from WhatsApp the same night. However, WhatsApp restored these users accounts after a ban period of 27 days.
Since WhatsApp is a private messaging app, the ban notice for these groups comes as a big surprise. Also, WhatsApp messages are protected with end-to-end encryption whereby messages aren’t being read.
Considering WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, WABetaInfo predicts that the platform uses an automated system to detect controversial or suspicious activity – without actually understanding a specific groups’ chat content. This is done by assessing the group date creation, group subject and even the group description.
WABetaInfo explains, “Probably this is the only way that WhatsApp can use to detect malicious groups, seen that chats and calls are end-to-end encrypted and they cannot see the content of the group, so they see its metadata (group date creation, group subject, group description etc..).”
Although, WhatsApp does have ban notices like a temporary ban for users who are on unauthorised apps. WhatsApp also bans accounts if the account activity is in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. But this is mostly related to WhatsApp Business accounts.
Still, many would agree that the ban on all group members seems unfair, but WhatsApp has made it possible to prevent this kind of situation thanks to its Group Info Restriction feature. Under the Group Settings menu, the group’s creator can decide exactly who has the power to change the group name by making them a group admin.
WhatsApps’ zero-tolerance approach has upset a lot of users and the only resort for those banned it seems would be to move to another platform or change their phone numbers.
Considering that a number of users have claimed to have been banned as a result of other people’s actions, the best solution going forward will be to be a lot more selective about the groups you decide to join especially now that you have the power to choose who can add you to group chats.
Affected users claim that admins have changed the names of the groups they belonged to after they joined, so it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of groups with a lot of admins especially if you don’t know all of them.
If you’re currently admin in a group, this might be a good time to go into your group settings and do a cleanup of admins who could potentially cause trouble for you and the other members of your group.
Importantly, ensure that you only allow admins to change the group name.