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WhatsApp Banning Users in Groups with Suspicious Names: Here's How You Can Stay Safe

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Last Updated: November 13, 2019, 16:40 IST

Representative Image. (Photo: MaxPixel)

Representative Image. (Photo: MaxPixel)

WhatsApp's recent array of banning users because of group names is because of its usage policy that safeguards against perpetrators of child abusive content.

In recent times, information has surfaced regarding WhatsApp banning users that are part of groups with suspicious names. Many users have taken to Reddit to write about how they got banned because of being in a group that did not have an appropriate name. To be more specific, most users getting banned from their WhatsApp accounts have been part of groups that are named, for whatever reason, in a way that is indicative of child abuse.

While the users that have come forward and reported the bans were part of groups that had named themselves owing to common pranks, the issue is in line with WhatsApp's fight against child exploitation. In a note shared by the messaging service on its official blog on February 6, 2019, WhatsApp said, "To protect the privacy and security of our users, WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can see the content of messages. To help prevent sharing of child exploitative imagery (CEI), WhatsApp relies on all available unencrypted information including user reports to detect and prevent this kind of abuse." Among the available unencrypted information is the factor of group names, which, if flagged by WhatsApp's machine learning algorithms, will lead to its users being banned from the platform.

It is exactly this that appears to have happened to many users, who appear to have paid the price for a prank group name that somehow indicated child exploitative behaviour to the algorithms. While having a WhatsApp group with old friends that have a prank-riddled name is very common, it appears that users will now need to proceed with increasing caution when picking which joke to name their group after. On this note, here are some ways to ensure that you comply with WhatsApp's usage policies, and do not face an abrupt ban.

1. Make sure your funny WhatsApp group name does not qualify as insensitive. In everyone's best interests, browse through WhatsApp's security blog, and ensure that your usage of WhatsApp complies with the fair usage rules that the company has disclosed publicly.
2. If you are an admin: Ensure that only you or co-admins of the group have the ability to alter a group's details, so that users with nefarious intentions cannot tweak the information and put your and your fellow users' accounts at risk. To do so, tap on the group name, go to Group settings, tap on Edit group info, and select Admins only.
3. If you are a user: Be sure to be careful about who can add you to groups, and which groups are you being added to. To filter this, open WhatsApp and head to Settings, tap on Account, select Privacy, access Groups and select 'My contacts except...'. Using this, you can selectively allow a trusted few to add you to groups. Apart from them, every other group request will come to you as a private message, which gives an overview of the group you are being added to, including group name, image, and group participants. The feature allows you to verify whether you recognise the group as something you're willing to be added to, and act accordingly.

As of now, if you have been banned from WhatsApp because of this reason, you can appeal your ban to WhatsApp through the app itself by submitting proof that your group was not based on child sexual abuse. Alternately, you can head to WhatsApp's official help channels and write to them for more assistance on the matter.