WhatsApp announced that it has introduced back-end updates to address spam calls, which are currently especially prevalent in India. It has affected many users in recent days and finally caught the attention of the Indian government.
On Thursday, Meta’s messaging app announced it was rapidly ramping up its AI and ML systems to reduce spam call incidents. Some users were even harassed and scammed through fraudulent calls from unknown international numbers. Indian users have been posting extensively about these incidents on social media in recent days.
“WhatsApp is a leader in end-to-end encrypted services for protecting user security. We continue to provide various security tools within WhatsApp, such as Block and Report, consistently build user education and awareness about security, and also proactively remove adversaries from our platform. However, malicious parties find different ways to scam users. International scam calls are 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 call rate of spam calls by at least 50%.
“We expect to be able to manage the current incident well. We will continue to work relentlessly to ensure a safe experience for our users,” the spokesperson said.
Based on user reports, malicious users called 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. The fraudsters then often asked users to connect through other messaging apps, such as Telegram.
It takes a while for the latest updates to mitigate the problem. However, affected users are not required to download any update or make any changes to the app.
Earlier on Thursday, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, India’s state minister for electronics and information technology, said told local media that the Ministry of IT would send a message to Meta to limit spam calls on the messaging apps. If there’s a problem with spam, that’s definitely one that WhatsApp should be looking at or another messaging platform should be looking at, he said.
“Protecting user privacy and security is fundamental to Meta and to WhatsApp. Our users are at the center of everything we do, and we are fully aligned with the government’s goal of keeping users safe,” said the WhatsApp spokesperson.
India is the largest market for WhatsApp, with over 500 million users. In addition to the recent spam call issue, brands started spamming WhatsApp users in India last year. In that case, users reported that even after blocking some companies, many return to the inbox with different phone numbers.
Google also faced a similar issue where some companies started abusing the company’s anti-spam policy on Rich Communication Services (RCS) ads to send advertising messages to Indian users. As a result, the search giant shut down the service in the country.