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WhatsApp starts permanently banning those in Groups with ‘malicious’ names: How to avoid this fate

WhatsApp appears to be taking a strict approach against users in Groups with 'malicious' names or names which appear to hint at some kind of illegality. Here's how you can keep your account safe.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 19, 2019 5:13:33 pm
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WhatsApp appears to be taking a strict approach against users in Groups with ‘malicious’ names or Group names, which appear to hint at some kind of illegality. The reports come from Reddit, where a user Mowe11 published a post about how his account got permanently banned on WhatsApp.

According to the post, the ban happened because one of the participants in the group changed the university group’s name to something illegal. This was enough to get everyone in the group banned on the platform.

The user Mowe11 wrote, “We tried to contact support but all we receive are automatic responses that says we violated the rules. Obviously we did nothing wrong.” Other users on the thread have also revealed that their accounts too were banned when someone changed the group name to something illegal or malicious sounding.

User etrec89 wrote, “I suffered from this as well, our whole group of about 50 persons was permanently banned because somebody thought it would be funny to scare the rest of us by changing the name of the group to such a disgusting topic for less than 1 minute (as the name was changed back to normal almost immediately) It was noon when the name change happened, that same night, all of us woke up with the news that all our accounts were permanently banned.”

The user claims they had to set up WhatsApp with a different phone number and managed to get back conversations in a backup. The new number has not been banned despite the chat recovery.

Top WhatsApp features for privacy: Screen Lock, Block contacts, Read receipts and more

Another user named PiTiXX also posted in a separate thread that WhatsApp banned their entire group when someone change the name to something illegal. In Mowe11 and PiTiXX, the group name was changed to ‘Child Pornography’, which could explain why WhatsApp immediately banned all users.

WhatsApp has several privacy features, which can help users avoid a ban. (Image source: Reuters)

When does WhatsApp ban a user?

Most technology firms are cracking down such kinds of illegality, which would be why WhatsApp banned these users. We have reached out to WhatsApp for a more detailed comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, for WhatsApp users it is a good idea to read the terms and services. If WhatsApp does disable your account for a violation of our Terms, you will not be able to create another account without their permission.

WhatsApp’s terms and services clearly list out the legal and acceptable uses. The relevant paragraph reads,“You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that: (a) violate, misappropriate, or infringe the rights of WhatsApp, our users, or others, including privacy, publicity, intellectual property, or other proprietary rights; (b) are illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful, racially, or ethnically offensive, or instigate or encourage conduct that would be illegal, or otherwise inappropriate, including promoting violent crimes; (c) involve publishing falsehoods, misrepresentations, or misleading statements; (d) impersonate someone; (e) involve sending illegal or impermissible communications such as bulk messaging, auto-messaging, auto-dialing, and the like; or (f) involve any non-personal use of our Services unless otherwise authorized by us.”  

Based on this all illegal, obscene, defamatory content is banned as is impersonating someone or sending illegal content.

WhatsApp: ‘Not here to give people a megaphone, designed for private messaging’

In a white paper on how it bans accounts, WhatsApp had revealed that after they ban an account, they use the information available to reverse engineer past behaviour to prevent similar abuse in the future. WhatsApp says they use advanced machine learning systems that take action to ban accounts.

In February, it revealed that WhatsApp banned over two million accounts per month for bulk or automated behavior and over 75 per cent of those accounts did not have any recent user reports. In rare cases of an incorrect ban, users can turn to a team that reviews and responds to appeals.

WhatsApp says additional information maybe needed from the user in order to give them access to their account. If an account got banned because of a prank name or something similar, users can file an appeal and WhatsApp will restore accounts.

Further, Group names are public and Profile picture is also visible to WhatsApp. So if you change the name to something obscene or use a profile picture which is illegal, it will not be hidden from the company.

WhatsApp ban, WhatsApp account ban, WhatsApp banned, WhatsApp Account Ban appeal, How to appeal WhatsApp ban, How to avoid WhatsApp ban In user privacy, you can restrict who adds you to a group thus ensuring your account remains safe from random accounts. (Image source: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)

How to keep your WhatsApp account safe, and not get banned?

If you are part of too many Groups on WhatsApp, it would be a good time to check which ones are still relevant. If you are part of a Group, which you don’t remember joining or have not chatted in for a long time, it is best to exit that Group.

On your Groups, you can restrict privacy settings to ensure not everyone can change the name.

Tap on the Group name, go to Group Settings on Android and iOS versions of the app.

You will see the option to restrict who can send messages and edit group information.

If it is a very large group, you can restrict the option of sending messages to just Admins or leave it at All Participants.

You can also restrict the ability to change Group name, Group Info, etc to just ‘All Participants’ or just Group Admins.

For your individual account, you can restrict who all can add you to a group. Just to go WhatsApp Settings> Account> Privacy > Groups and choose who can add you to a Group.

The options range from Everyone, (this will include people who are not in your contacts list), your Contacts, and My Contacts Except, where you can block some contacts from adding you to a group.

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