Over the weekend reports have been released that WhatsApp have begun banning users. In fact, this has actually been happening for a number of weeks now, users and entire groups of users are being permanently banned from the messenger service.
WhatsApp has said that they are banning users who are part of groups with malicious or suspicious names under their terms of service, “We prohibit misuse of our Services, harmful conduct towards others, and violations of our Terms and policies.”
Any group names that would suggest violence, pornography and any illegal activity are being targeted. “We will take appropriate action by removing such people or activity or contacting law enforcement” This is understandable and we all feel a little safer thinking WhatsApp are weeding out criminal activity.
It does bring up a few other questions. What if it’s just words? A distasteful joke, a stupid group name or a silly prank? Like so many of the already banned users have explained but have not had their ban lifted. Even when the content of the chat proved that it was non malicious. But, apparently the platform has no way of differentiating between a bad joke and actual intent.
How do you avoid being banned?
- Immediately check the names of your groups to see if they may fall into the bannable category.
- Ensure all group names meet WhatsApps Terms of Service
- Remove yourself from any groups that have ambiguous names that could breach the Terms of Service
- Ensure only admins can change the group names and details to limit your potential risk.
It does make me uncomfortable to know that we now have to censor our use of language and I would question how private our chats actually are. As an encrypted end to end service, how do they know what our group names are? WhatsApp says that they can only monitor the Group Names and not the actual content itself.
Lastly, as I have said before, be careful what you put online you don’t know how private services actually are or when their terms of service may change. Once your information is online, it’s there for good, somewhere. Think twice about what you share.
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