Here’s How Political Parties Bypass WhatsApp’s Anti-Spam Policies
WhatsApp today plays a pivotal role in everyone's lives and it has almost become the backbone of the communication system of the country.
But there’s also a dark side. Not only are millions able to reach each other through WhatsApp, there are political parties who have used the platform for the wrong reasons. Reasons like spreading rumours, hate speech and propaganda.
Though the Facebook-owned messaging platform did bring in some features to restrict users from sending forwarded messages in large numbers (now restricted to 5 only), there are loopholes in the app that can send out a single message to millions of users at a time.
Attack of the 'Clones'
WhatsApp clone apps have been doing the rounds around the internet for a while now. There are software makers who have devised applications that are able to clone most of WhatsApp's interface and then add a few additional features which the original app doesn’t offer to users.
These composite applications are made available to buyers at a basic cost of Rs 500-Rs 1,000. Some of the most common WhatsApp clone apps are GBWhatsApp, JTWhatsApp, WhatsApp Robot and Business Sender.
These clones offer users the ability to send up to 100 documents at once while the original WhatsApp only lets users send 30 documents at a time. It even allows users to bypass the forward limit and send a forwarded message without the forward tag.
According to a Reuters report, there are many ‘WhatsApp marketers’ who claim they used similar applications and softwares to send forwards up to 6,000 people a day, as well as video files containing political content, which would be far bigger in size than allowed on the official WhatsApp service.
There are websites that are offering these applications for free. However, you will have to install these apps into your phone by downloading the apk files.
The WhatsApp Web Window
We also came across a website www.whatsender.net from where you can download a software called WhatSender to send bulk WhatsApp messages to multiple users. For Free.
The application has a very basic interface that is divided into three columns where WhatsApp users can enter contact details of the people they want to send the message to, enter the text message and also see detailed reports of whether the messages have been delivered to the recipients or not.
There is a paid version of the software as well, which allows users to feed in contact details via .txt files that comes with a 1 year licence with free updates.
I tried the application and was able to ‘spam’ 10 of my office colleagues with the app. I could even send an image via the software to all the contacts. This way, you can send a text to millions of users if you have their phone numbers.
These messages are sent one after the other and the whole process takes time. It depends on the number of contacts you have chosen.
An Economic Times report stated that political parties would get in touch with agencies called “WhatsApp Farms” before the elections in order to reach out to millions of voters. These WhatsApp farms would use similar methods as above to carry out their operations. And, there is nothing illegal about it.
It Works! But...
These applications have a price. There are people on the internet who post videos and demo these apps to lure potential customers.
Most of the clients for these kind of applications are small businesses or anybody looking to ‘spread the word’. Only recently, apps like these have come into the limelight for being used by political parties to spread propaganda during the elections.
However, these apps were being used by marketing firms and businesses long before elections even started.
There are also possibilities that your number might be blocked if you are caught using these kind of clone apps as it is against WhatsApp’s “Terms of Service”.
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Many users were even blocked for up to 9 hours for having used apps like GBWhatsApp. So, if you are thinking of trying out one of these, think twice.
Though these loopholes in the application still exist, WhatsApp has been trying hard to cut down on the number of users on these platforms. Since the number is too large, the process is taking time.