LS Polls: Software Tool of Rs 1000 Helps Bypass Curbs on WhatsApp 

The activities bring to light the challenges faced by the Facebook-owned company in preventing misuse in India.

Published15 May 2019, 02:31 PM IST
2 min read

As the Lok Sabha election reaches its seventh and last phase with an intensifying political campaign, digital marketers and political activists are bypassing WhatsApp's anti-spam restrictions with the help of clones and software tools that can be bought for a sum of Rs 1,000, Reuters reported on Wednesday, 15 May.

The recent activities bring to light the challenges faced by the Facebook-owned company in preventing misuse in India.

With rigorous election campaigning going on to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha and also decide the fate of the ruling BJP party at the Centre, the demand for such tools has increased, the report said, citing digital companies and sources in the BJP and the Congress.

In a direct contravention to WhatsApp's message forwarding policy, these software tools reportedly allow users of the social messaging app to reach thousands of people at a given time.

Amid a spurt in mob lynchings in the country last year, the Facebook-owned company had restricted forwarding of a message to only five users.

Rohitash Repswal, a digital marketing specialist in New Delhi, told Reuters that he used a software worth Rs 1,000 in recent months to send up to 1,00,000 WhatsApp messages per day for two BJP workers.

"Whatever WhatsApp does, there's a workaround," the report quoted Repswal as saying during an interview.

There were at least three ways in which the social messaging app was reportedly misused for political campaigning in in India: While some BJP and Congress workers used free clone apps to forward bulk messages manually; there were also instances of software tools being used to automate delivery of WhatsApp messages.

In addition, some firms reportedly allowed political workers to send bulk WhatsApp messages from anonymous numbers using a specific website(s).

Interestingly, three such tools could be bought from Amazon India’s website, the report said, adding that the package received by a Reuters reporter had compact discs packed inside cardboard casings, with no company branding.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to Reuters request for testing such tools.

"We are continuing to step up our enforcement against imposter WhatsApp services and take legal action by sending cease and desist letters to hundreds of bulk messaging service providers to help curb abuse," a spokesperson reportedly said, adding, "We do not want them to operate on our platform and we work to ban them".

(With inputs from Reuters)

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