Building Private, Safe, and Secure Communities on WhatsApp
We are building Communities on WhatsApp for close-knit groups that need more tools to organize and manage their conversations. These kinds of groups typically have a connection where people know one another and are organized around a common place or interest.
Parents at a school, local clubs, and even small workplaces now rely on WhatsApp as their primary way of keeping people up to date. These groups need private ways of communicating that are distinct from social media but provide more tools to facilitate real-time conversations than e-mail or broadcast only channels.
At the center of every Community on WhatsApp is a description and menu of groups that people can choose to join. This provides a structure and organization to conversations among larger and more complex groups that allow people to focus on what matters to them. We are building a number of updates to provide private, safe, and secure ways for these groups to communicate on WhatsApp with the following principles as our guide.
We are building new tools for admins to manage conversations among their private groups. Admins are responsible for creating and managing Communities on WhatsApp. They can choose which groups become part of their Community by forming new groups or by linking pre-existing groups. Community admins will also have the ability to unlink groups from the Community and remove individual members from the Community entirely. In addition, group admins will be able to delete inappropriate or abusive chats or media for all members of a group. We’ll provide admins with resources on how best to use these new features.
Giving users more control over their chats
In addition to providing new tools for admins, users can control their interactions within Communities. Our existing settings allow users to decide who can add them to a group – and these settings will also apply to Communities. Users will also be able to easily report abuse, block accounts, and leave Communities they no longer want to be a part of. We’re also adding the ability to silently leave a group, so everyone in a group is not notified in case people decide the conversation is no longer for them.
Sensible Limits on Size, Discoverability, and Forwarding
While other apps provide group chats without limits, WhatsApp is focusing our product development on meeting the needs of organizations and other groups where many people know one another already. Unlike social media and other messaging services, WhatsApp will not support the ability to search for or discover new Communities on our service.
To limit noise and overload, only Community admins will be able to send messages to all Community members - this is called the announcement group for the community. We will initially support community announcements for several thousands of users. Community members can chat in the smaller groups that admins have created or approved. We plan incremental increases to group sizes as we bring more controls to admins and users.
We continue to constrain forwarding on WhatsApp to keep conversations private. With the introduction of Communities, messages that have already been forwarded will only be able to be forwarded to one group at a time, rather than five, which is today’s forward limit. We believe this will meaningfully reduce the spread of potentially harmful misinformation in community groups.
End-to-End Encryption and Phone Number Privacy
Given the private nature of the chats within these close knit communities, WhatsApp will continue to protect messages with end-to-end encryption so that only the members of the respective groups can see them and no one else. This security technology protects the sensitive conversations among organizations, workplaces, and personal groups.
To help protect user privacy, your phone number will be hidden from the Community at large and only be visible to Community admins and others in the same group as you. This will help prevent unwanted contact and will also reduce the risk of scraping people’s phone numbers.
Taking action against abusive Communities
These new measures and controls are designed to empower Community admins to address problems within their groups, since they know them best. We will also continue to encourage users to report problematic Communities and messages to us directly.
Whenever we become aware of Communities engaging in abuse such as distributing child sexual abuse material or coordinating violence or human trafficking, WhatsApp will ban individual Community members or admins, disband a Community, or ban all members of a Community. We will rely on all available unencrypted information including the Community name, description, and user reports to take appropriate action.
WhatsApp will continue to build support for Communities in the months and years to come and as always we will continue to listen closely to feedback from users about how we can help people connect privately, safely, and securely.