WhatsApp threatens legal action against public claims of messaging abuses

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 June 2019
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WhatsApp threatens legal action against public claims of messaging abuses

  • WhatsApp says it blocks more than 2 million accounts per month worldwide for bulk or automated behavior

NEW DELHI: WhatsApp has threatened legal action against those who publicly claim the ability to abuse its messaging platform, after the emergence of a raft of companies advertising products to bypass usage restrictions.
A Reuters investigation found in May that WhatsApp clones and software tools were helping Indian digital marketers and political activists bypass anti-spam restrictions in the run-up to India’s general election.
Until now, WhatsApp has focused legal action on abuses for which it had found internal evidence.
However the Facebook-owned company said in a post titled “Unauthorized usage of WhatsApp” (https://bit.ly/2XbuJjv) that from Dec. 7 it would take action even if an entity merely made public claims of an ability to abuse its platform.
The company said this “serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies” for such abuses. A WhatsApp spokeswoman did not specify what sort of legal action it could take.
Reuters in May reported WhatsApp was being misused ahead of India’s general election through the use of free clone apps and via a $14 software tool that allowed users to automate delivery of bulk WhatsApp messages.
Tools purporting to bypass WhatsApp restrictions have also been advertised in videos and online forums aimed at users in Indonesia and Nigeria, both of which held elections this year.
Some firms in India also offered the chance to send bulk WhatsApp messages from anonymous numbers via a website, Reuters found.
Fighting spam has been a major issue for WhatsApp, especially in India, where it has more than 200 million users.
Last year, false messages circulating on WhatsApp sparked mob lynchings in India, following which the company restricted forwarding of a message to only five users.
WhatsApp said it will also continue banning accounts based on machine learning. WhatsApp says it blocks more than 2 million accounts per month worldwide for bulk or automated behavior.


Somali journalists’ body slams police ‘threats’ to shoot reporters

A general view shows people at the scene of a suicide car explosion at a check point near Somali Parliament building in Mogadishu, Somalia June 15, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Somali journalists’ body slams police ‘threats’ to shoot reporters

  • The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible”

MOGADISHU: A Somali journalists’ association on Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near Parliament, and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.
Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabab militant group, stopped a group of reporters from international news groups, including Al Jazeera’s Jama Nur Ahmed.
“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.
Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP and the Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.
“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” according to the SJS.
It charged Somali police treat journalists “as criminals,” preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country.
“This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia.”
It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.
AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Al-Shabab attacks.
The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”
“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.