In a bid to combat the rising tide of spam calls affecting users in India, WhatsApp has rolled out crucial back-end updates to its platform. These unwanted calls have been a significant nuisance to many users and have prompted the Indian government to take notice.
The Meta-owned messaging app announced its robust response on Thursday, revealing that it had accelerated its AI and machine learning (ML) systems to curb the incidence of spam calls. Numerous users had been victimized, and in some cases scammed, by deceptive calls originating from unidentified international numbers. This alarming trend had been widely reported on social media platforms by Indian users in recent days.
In a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson acknowledged the issue, saying, “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, and proactively weed out bad actors from our platform. International scam calls is a new way that bad actors have recently adopted.”
The company expects these updates to significantly decrease the frequency of spam calls, reducing them by at least 50%. WhatsApp remains committed to ensuring a safe user experience and will continue to take decisive action to control this issue.
According to user reports, scammers were making calls using international codes from various countries, including Ethiopia (+251), Indonesia (+62), Kenya (+254), Malaysia (+60), and Vietnam (+84). These calls often involved fraudulent job offers, with the fraudsters then usually requesting users to communicate via other messaging apps, such as Telegram.
The newly implemented updates will need some time to take full effect, but no action is required from users. No updates need to be downloaded or changes made to the app.
Earlier on the same day, India’s Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, told local media outlets that the IT ministry planned to issue a notice to Meta, urging them to restrict spam calls on their messaging platforms.
A spokesperson from WhatsApp reassured that protecting user privacy and security is of utmost importance to both Meta and WhatsApp, and that they are in full agreement with the government’s objective of ensuring user safety.
WhatsApp has a substantial user base in India, exceeding 500 million users. Alongside the recent issue with spam calls, there has been a surge of brand spamming on WhatsApp. Users have reported that even after blocking certain businesses, many have found ways to return to the inbox using different phone numbers.
This issue mirrors a similar challenge faced by Google, where some businesses began to violate the company’s anti-spam policies on Rich Communication Services (RCS) ads, leading to the suspension of the service in the country. The struggle against spam calls and messages continues, but with tech giants like WhatsApp and Google taking proactive measures, there is hope for a less intrusive future.