About WhatsApp and elections

WhatsApp is dedicated to helping people speak freely, and we recognize that democratic institutions protect this right. We remain committed to addressing abuse while protecting people's privacy. We maintain a dedicated team to prevent abuse specifically focused on three lines of effort:
  1. Maintaining the private nature of WhatsApp
  2. Preventing coordinated misuse of WhatsApp
  3. Empowering users to counteract misinformation
WhatsApp does not use algorithms to prioritize the order of messages or Channel updates people receive, or serve content in a feed. There is no in-app search or discoverability for unconnected people or groups. People most often use WhatsApp to communicate with others they already know, and you need their phone number to message them.
Maintaining the private nature of our service
End-to-end encryption for your personal chats: WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default for personal messaging to protect people's conversations from hackers, criminals, and other cyber threats. That means that nobody—including WhatsApp—can read or listen to your personal chats or calls. Election experts have argued providing strong security is critical to protecting people’s messages. This includes political speech and discussions of candidates and their campaigns.
Forward limits: We set a limit on forwarding messages and Channel updates to just five chats at once. This makes WhatsApp one of the few technology companies to intentionally constrain sharing. When introduced, this limitation reduced the amount of forwarded messages on WhatsApp by over 25%.
Additional limits and labeling: We set additional limits for forwards that have been forwarded many times. These messages or Channel updates are labeled with
frequently forwarded
. Personal messages or updates showing the highly forwarded label
frequently forwarded
indicate that they likely did not originate from a close contact and deserve extra scrutiny. They can only be forwarded to one other chat at a time, a limitation that reduced these kinds of personal messages by over 70%. In addition, updates forwarded from a Channel always link back to the original Channel to provide recipients additional context as to the source of the update.
Privacy by design: We’ve built privacy features to empower users. These include the ability for users to silently leave a WhatsApp group without alerting everyone in the group, the ability to silence unknown callers, and others. When a user receives messages from someone that is not in their contacts, we will show additional context – like groups in common – in the message that they can use to determine how to respond. Privacy Checkup also helps users make choices to strengthen the security of their account. This step-by-step feature guides users through important privacy settings to help choose the right level of protection, all in one place.
Preventing coordinated abuse
Ban mass messaging: WhatsApp has best-in-class spam detection technology that works around the clock. Our technology spots accounts engaging in abnormal behavior so they can’t be used to spread spam or misinformation. We ban over 8 million accounts per month, 75% of them without a recent user report. This means our automated systems are able to stop abuse even before it is reported.
Prevent group abuse: We developed a privacy setting to let users decide who can add them to groups. Choices include: everyone, only their contacts, or only select contacts at the user’s discretion. This setting prevents people from being added to unwanted groups that may be created to send content at scale. We rely on machine learning to prevent accounts attempting to create groups at scale to message users. We’ve also built tools to help group admins manage their groups, including the ability for admins to lock the group profile picture and name, approve who can join a group, and restrict settings so that only the admin can send a message in a group.
Political use: Political Parties or Political Candidates that use automation or send WhatsApp messages to users without permission can have their accounts banned. Currently, political candidates and political campaigns are not permitted to use the WhatsApp Business Platform. In many countries, WhatsApp engages with political entities ahead of major elections to emphasize our approach to safety. We also emphasize the importance of using WhatsApp responsibly.
Empowering users to address misinformation
Support for fact checking: We have partnered with the International Fact-Checking Network to make certified fact checkers available on WhatsApp, including on Channels. This enables direct fact checks via end-to-end encrypted messaging, and lets fact-checkers reach a wider audience via broadcast channels. Through this partnership, fact-checking organizations in nearly 50 countries use WhatsApp to help connect users with reliable information. We’re also continuing to empower fact-checking organizations and ensure they have the resources they need to combat misinformation and ensure voters have reliable information on how to register to vote and where to vote.
Block and report: Unlike traditional SMS, WhatsApp provides a simple way for users to block accounts, including directly from their phone’s lock screen. Users can also easily make reports to WhatsApp if they encounter problematic messages, groups, numbers or Channel updates. We ban the vast majority of abusive accounts through automated detection. However, reports help us identify if an account or Channel is engaging in mass messaging or coordinated abuse. We can then conduct further investigation to prevent harm.
Search the web: WhatsApp provides a simple way to double check personal messages that have been forwarded many times. This helps our users find news results or other sources of information about content they have received. This feature works by allowing users to tap a magnifying glass that uploads the message via their browser.
Public education campaigns and partnerships: WhatsApp has launched partnerships and large-scale education campaigns and collaborations to address misinformation in several countries, including the Misinformation Combat Alliance (MCA) in India, the Internet Sehat collaboration in Indonesia and on radio in Nigeria.
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