WhatsApp rolls out back-end fixes to address spam calls impacting Indian users
WhatsApp has announced that it has introduced back-end updates to tackle spam calls, which are particularly prevalent in India right now. It has impacted many users in the last few days and eventually brought the attention of the Indian government.
On Thursday, the Meta-owned messaging app announced that it quickly ramped up its AI and ML systems to bring down spam call incidents. Some users were sometimes even harassed and scammed through fraudulent calls coming from unknown international numbers. In the past few days, Indian users have extensively reported these incidents on social media.
"WhatsApp is a leader among end-to-end encrypted services in protecting user safety. We continue to provide several safety tools within WhatsApp like Block & Report, consistently build user safety education and awareness, as well as, proactively weed out bad-actors from our platform. However, bad actors find different ways to scam users. International scam calls is a new way that bad actors have recently adopted," a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson added that the new enforcement would reduce the current calling rate of spam calls by at least 50%.
"We expect to be able to control the current incident effectively. We will continue to work relentlessly toward ensuring a safe experience for our users," the spokesperson said.
Based on reports from users, malicious users were making calls from phone numbers with international codes from countries such as Ethiopia (+251), Indonesia (+62), Kenya (+254), Malaysia (+60) and Vietnam (+84), among others. In most cases, they promoted fraudulent job offers. However, the fraudsters then often asked users to connect over other messaging apps, such as Telegram.
The latest updates will take some time to reduce the issue. However, the affected users do not need to download any update or make any changes to the app.
Earlier on Thursday, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India's minister of state for electronics and information technology, told local media outlets that the IT ministry would send a notice to Meta to get spam calls on the messaging apps restricted. If there is an issue of spam, it is certainly an issue WhatsApp should look at or any messenger platform should look at, he said.
"Protecting the privacy and security of users is fundamental to Meta and to WhatsApp. Our users are at the heart of everything we do, and we are fully aligned with the government's goal of keeping users safe," the WhatsApp spokesperson said.
India is the biggest market for WhatsApp, with over 500 million users. In addition to the recent issue with spam calls, brands started spamming WhatsApp users in India last year. Users reported in that case that even after blocking some businesses, many return to the inbox from different phone numbers.
Google also faced a similar issue where some businesses started to abuse the company’s anti-spam policies on Rich Communication Services (RCS) ads to send promotional messages to Indian users. As a result, the search giant halted the service in the country.