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WhatsApp banned over 19 lakh Indian accounts in May as a result of complaints received from users via its channel for grievances and through its own system to prevent and detect violations, according to the most recent monthly report released by the messaging service.

Large digital platforms (with more than 50 lakh users) are required by the new IT regulations that took effect last year to post compliance reports on a monthly basis that include information on complaints received and actions taken.

"As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 1.9 million accounts in the month of May," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, the user-safety report includes information on user complaints received and WhatsApp's response to them, as well as WhatsApp's own proactive measures to address platform misuse. The 91 phone number prefix identifies the account as being in India.

According to the report released on July 1, 19.10 lakh Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp between May 1 and May 31, 2022 using the "abuse detection approach, which also includes action taken in furtherance to negative feedback received from users..."

In contrast, the messaging service had deactivated more than 16 lakh Indian user accounts in April and 18.05 lakh such accounts in March.

"Over the years, we have consistently invested in Artificial Intelligence and other state-of-the-art technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform," the spokesperson further said.

In May 2022, there were 528 grievance complaints received and 24 accounts were "actioned." Out of the total reports received, 303 related to "ban appeal," with the remaining reports falling under various categories like account support, product support, and safety.

"We respond to all grievances received except in cases where a grievance is deemed to be a duplicate of a previous ticket. An account is 'actioned' when an account is banned or a previously banned account is restored, as a result of a complaint," the report said.

In order to provide consumers with a grievance appeal process against the arbitrary content moderation, inaction, or takedown choices of major internet corporations, the government is now finalising new social media guidelines.

The IT ministry released a draft set of guidelines last month that calls for a government tribunal to hear user appeals against judgments made by social media platform grievance officers regarding content or against inaction on complaints.

The government has stated that there is now neither a credible self-regulatory mechanism in existence nor an appellate process offered by intermediaries.

Large social media companies have faced criticism in the past for the fake news, hate speech, and disinformation that circulated on their platforms. Digital platforms' arbitrary actions in removing content and "de-platforming" users have also drawn criticism.

In 2021, the government announced IT regulations to hold digital intermediaries more liable and responsible for the content that is housed on their platforms.

(With PTI inputs)

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