WhatsApp is taking the issue of bulk-messaging and non-personal use of their platform pretty seriously as a post in their FAQ section explains that the company will start taking legal action towards users who send bulk messages on December 7, 2019.
We are committed to reinforcing the private nature of our platform and keeping users safe from abuse. We recently detailed our on-platform capabilities to identify and ban accounts in this white paper: Stopping Abuse: How WhatsApp Fights Bulk Messaging and Automated Behavior. We’re aware that some companies attempt to evade our machine learning systems, even as we work tirelessly to improve them. Using the on-platform information available within WhatsApp we’ve found and stopped millions of abusive accounts from operating on our service.
This is a challenge that requires a holistic approach and WhatsApp is committed to using the resources at its disposal–including legal action–to prevent abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use. This is why in addition to technological enforcement, we also take legal action against individuals or companies that we link to on-platform evidence of such abuse. WhatsApp reserves its right to continue taking legal action in such circumstances.
In addition, beginning on December 7, 2019, WhatsApp will take legal action against those we determine are engaged in or assisting others in abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform. For example, off-platform information includes public claims from companies about their ability to use WhatsApp in ways that violate our Terms. This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date.
It will be interesting to see just how they plan on enforcing this as it might mean breaking their encryption or at least implementing a feature that makes users identifiable in a manner that hasn’t been possible up until now.
Considering the amount of stick WhatsApp has gotten regarding fake news and the impact of fake news in a number of countries, it’s not too surprising that they are trying to come up with ways of combating these issues.
I do wonder where the funds for this legal action will be coming from considering WhatsApp still isn’t making money yet, so whether they can afford to be fighting court cases globally is yet to be seen. Once you also consider the scale of bulk-messaging and other abuses that will be a lot of legal action to take, unless of course WhatsApp decides to pick and choose cases depending on their severity.