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WhatsApp has announced it blocked over two million accounts in India in May and June for violating rules.

The Facebook-owned messaging service said 95% of these users were blocked for violating the limits of the number of times messages can be forwarded in India.

The submissions were made by WhatsApp in its first monthly compliance report under India’s controversial new IT rules.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market with about 400 million users.

The company said its “top focus” has been to prevent accounts in India from sending harmful or unwanted messages at scale.

Using advanced machine learning technology, WhatsApp reportedly bans close to eight million accounts across the world every month.

Two million accounts in India sending a “high and abnormal rate of messages” were banned in India alone between May 15 and June 15, the service said.

The service identifies an Indian account as one with a +91 (country code) phone number.

WhatsApp often ends up being the focus of discussions on the spread of misinformation and fake news in India.

Such fake news and hoaxes are forwarded to tens of thousands of users in hours, and it’s practically impossible to counter them.

Messages and videos circulating in bulk have in the past incited mob violence in India, even leading to deaths.

WhatsApp Testing New Feature to Let Users Message Without Using Their Phones

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WhatsApp Suspended in Brazil

WhatsApp criticized over privacy policy

In addition to responding to user complaints, WhatsApp said it deployed its own tools to prevent abuse on the platform.

The service said it relied on the “behavioral signals” from user accounts, or on available “unencrypted information”, profile and group photos, and descriptions to identify potential offenders.

WhatsApp’s submissions come at a time when tech companies are embroiled in an intensifying battle with the Indian government over the new IT rules.

The guidelines – announced in February and became effective in May – seek to regulate content on social media and streaming platforms, and have raised serious concerns about free speech and user privacy.

Critics say they give the government and law enforcement agencies powers to take down a wide range of content on the internet. But the government claims the rules are meant to prevent abuse and misinformation.

WhatsApp is testing a new feature that will let users message without using their phone for the first time.

At present, WhatsApp is linked to a user’s phone. Its desktop and web apps need that device to be connected and receiving messages.

However, the new feature will let users send and receive messages “even if your phone battery is dead”.

Up to four other devices – like PCs and tablets – can be used together, WhatsApp said.

To begin with, the new feature will be rolled out as a beta test for a “small group of users”, and the team plans to improve performance and add features before enabling it for everyone.

End-to-end encryption – a key selling point for WhatsApp – will still work under this new system, it said.

Several other messaging apps already have such a feature, including rival encrypted app Signal, which requires a phone for sign-up, but not to exchange messages.

The feature has long been requested by WhatsApp users – of which there are a reported two billion.

In a blog post announcing the move, Facebook engineers said the change needed a “rethink” of WhatsApp’s software design.

That is because the current version “uses a smartphone app as the primary device, making the phone the source of truth for all user data and the only device capable of end-to-end encrypting messages for another user [or] initiating calls”, the company said.

China Blocks WhatsApp Ahead of Communist Party Meeting

WhatsApp Suspended in Brazil

WhatsApp criticized over privacy policy

WhatsApp Web and other non-smartphone apps are essentially a “mirror” of what happens on the phone.

However, that system has significant drawbacks familiar to many regular users, as the web app is known to frequently disconnect.

It also means that only one so-called “companion app” can be active at a time – so loading WhatsApp on another device will disconnect a WhatsApp web window.

“The new WhatsApp multi-device architecture removes these hurdles, no longer requiring a smartphone to be the source of truth, while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronised and private,” the company said.

On a technical level, the solution was giving every device its own “identity key”, and WhatsApp keeps a record of which keys belong to the same user account. That means it does not need to store messages on its own server, which could lead to privacy concerns.

Facebook’s Latin America Vice President Diego Dzodan has been arrested in Brazil for refusing to share WhatsApp data.

Diego Dzodan, an Argentine national, has repeatedly refused to comply with court orders to hand over data for use in a criminal investigation into drugs trafficking, police said.

His arrest relates to the messaging service WhatsApp, owned by Facebook.

In a statement, Facebook called Diego Dzodan’s arrest an “extreme and disproportionate measure”.

Diego Dzodan’s arrest was ordered by a judge in the north-eastern state of Sergipe.Diego Dzodan Facebook Brazil

He was held as he left his house in an exclusive area of Sao Paulo on March 1.

Judge Marcel Maia Montalvao had in two previous instances issued fines against Facebook for refusing to release WhatsApp data.

The information was needed as part “secrete judicial investigations involving organized crime and drug trafficking,” he said.

In a statement, Facebook said it was “disappointed with the extreme and disproportionate measure”.

“Facebook has always been and will be available to address any questions Brazilian authorities may have,” the company said.

In December a judge in Brazil suspended WhatsApp for 48 hours.

The Sao Paulo state judge said at the time that WhatsApp failed to comply with court orders to share information in a criminal case.

WhatsApp has reached the milestone of one billion active users every month, Facebook has reported.

That’s nearly one in seven people on Earth now use WhatsApp.

The mobile messaging service now outperforms Facebook’s own Messenger mobile app, which has 800 million monthly users.WhatsApp one billion users

Facebook said 42 billion messages and 250 million videos were sent over WhatsApp daily.

Whatsapp was founded in 2009, and it was acquired by Facebook in February 2014, for approximately $19 billion.

The WhatsApp community has more than doubled since joining Facebook. The app waived its annual subscription fee because it has not worked well.

There are only a few services that connect more than a billion people. Google’s Gmail, Android, Chrome, YouTube, Maps, Search and Google Play each have more than a billion monthly active users.

Facebook’s acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp has been opposed by privacy groups.

Facebook is planning to buy WhatsApp for around $19 billion.

Opponents want the US Federal Trade Commission to stop the deal until Facebook provides more information on what it plans to do with the personal data of WhatsApp’s users.

But Facebook said it will operate as a separate company and honor existing privacy arrangements, which include not collecting user data for advertising.

“WhatsApp built a user-base based on its commitment not to collect user data for advertising revenue,” read a complaint filed with the FTC. It was drawn up by two non-profit groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy.

They added: “Users provided detailed personal information to the company including private text to close friends. Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model.

“The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.”

Facebook's acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp has been opposed by privacy groups

Facebook’s acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp has been opposed by privacy groups

And the groups, which work on research and consumer protection online, asked the regulators to investigate the deal “specifically with regard to the ability of Facebook to access WhatsApp’s store of user mobile phone numbers and metadata”.

Facebook, the world’s top social network with 1.2 billion users, generates the majority of its revenue by showing ads that target users by age, gender and other traits.

“As we have said repeatedly, WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security,” Facebook said in a statement seen by Reuters.

Facebook announced its intention to buy WhatsApp, which has 450 million users who are able to send instant messages and other media over mobile, with cash and stock.

There is no charge for individual messages, which are sent using Wi-Fi or data connections, making it cheaper than SMS messaging in many cases. Other users pay around $1 per year subscription.

Despite assurances by WhatsApp and Facebook that the privacy policies will not change, the groups noted that Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking company has in the past amended an acquired-company’s privacy policies.

Notably, it did so with the Instagram photo-sharing service that it bought in 2012.

Regulators must require that Facebook “insulate” WhatsApp user information from access by Facebook’s data collection practices, read the complaint, which was dated March 6, 2014.

“WhatsApp users could not reasonably have anticipated that by selecting a pro-privacy messaging service, they would subject their data to Facebook’s data collection practices,” read the filing.

The FTC will decide whether the acquisition can go ahead and, if so, whether or not conditions should be imposed.

Messaging app WhatsApp has been criticized over privacy policies following a joint investigation by Dutch and Canadian regulators.

Investigators said that when smartphone owners installed the app it asked to access their address books.

They said the problem was that it then transmitted all the contained phone numbers to its servers, and failed to delete those belonging to people who had not signed up to the service.

WhatsApp has not commented on the report at this time.

The Dutch Data Protection Authority has said that it could take punitive action if the Silicon Valley firm behind the product does not change it.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada added that it would also continue to monitor the company, but said it did not have the power to issue sanctions despite its belief that the firm was breaking local laws.

Messaging app WhatsApp has been criticized over privacy policies following a joint investigation by Dutch and Canadian regulators

Messaging app WhatsApp has been criticized over privacy policies following a joint investigation by Dutch and Canadian regulators

WhatsApp was launched in 2009 and allows users to send each other text, image, video and audio messages.

It works across Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Symbian platforms and does not charge a fee per message.

Instead some users pay its developer an annual $0.99 subscription, while others face a one-off cost to download the app. This has helped make it a popular alternative to SMS and MMS message services.

On installation users are asked permission to share their contacts so that the software can identify which of their friends are also on the service.

The regulators noted that only iPhone users running the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system were given the option of manually adding contacts rather than allowing their address book to be scanned.

They noted that although it was not illegal for the firm to have copied over data belonging to non-users, the problem was that it did not delete the information after running the friend-identification check.

Instead, the investigators said, the data was kept in a hashed form – in other words the telephone numbers were transformed into a short code and stored.

“This practice contravenes Canadian and Dutch privacy law, which holds that information may only be retained for so long as it is required for the fulfillment of an identified purpose,” said the regulators.

The agencies added that the app’s developer had taken steps to address some of their other concerns.

These included the introduction of encryption to prevent third-parties eavesdropping on messages sent via unprotected Wi-Fi networks, and the adoption of a stronger authentication process to make it harder for scammers to hack accounts in order to send messages from them.