About WhatsApp and elections
As a private messaging service dedicated to helping people speak freely, we recognize that democratic institutions protect this right. We maintain a dedicated team to prevent abuse focused on three lines of effort:
- Maintaining the private nature of WhatsApp
- Preventing coordinated misuse of WhatsApp
- Empowering users to counteract misinformation
WhatsApp operates differently than public forms of social media and so we have developed our approach within the context of providing a private messaging service. For example, our service was not designed as a platform to grow an audience and does not use algorithms to prioritize the order of messages people receive. People most often use WhatsApp to communicate with others they already know.
Over 90% of messages sent on WhatsApp are individual, 1 on 1, conversations. The majority of groups on WhatsApp are less than 10 people and we do not provide a way to discover or browse users or groups from within our app.
Maintain private nature of our service
End-to-end encryption: WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default to protect people's conversations from hackers, criminals, and other cyber threats. Election experts have argued providing strong security is critical to protecting people’s messages, including political speech and discussions of candidates and their campaigns.
Forward limits: We set a limit on forwarding messages to just five chats at once, making WhatsApp one of the few technology companies to intentionally constrain sharing. This reduced the amount of forwarded messages on WhatsApp by over 25%.
Additional limits for viral messages: We set additional limits for forwards that have been forwarded many times. These messages are labeled with double arrows. to indicate they did not originate from a close contact and can only be forwarded to one other chat at a time. This change reduced these kinds of messages by over 70%.
Block and report: Unlike traditional SMS, WhatsApp provides a simple way for users to block accounts and make reports to WhatsApp if they encounter problematic messages. While we ban the vast majority of abusive accounts through automated detection, reports help us identify if an account is engaging in mass messaging or coordinated abuse and conduct further investigation to prevent harm.
Prevent coordinated abuse
Ban mass messaging: WhatsApp has best-in-class spam detection technology that works around the clock to spot accounts engaging in abnormal behavior so they can’t be used to spread spam or misinformation. We released a white paper to explain in detail how WhatsApp combats this abuse. We ban over 2 million accounts per month, 75% of them without a recent user report, which means our automated systems stop abuse before users can report them.
Prevent group abuse: We developed a privacy setting to help users decide who can add them to groups. This change 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.
Political party education: WhatsApp informs political parties before major elections that sending WhatsApp messages to users without permission can lead to their accounts being banned. We’ve published our approach to safety and the importance of using WhatsApp responsibly.
Empower users to address misinformation
Forwarded labels: WhatsApp provides labels for forwards and messages that have been forwarded many times. These indicators help people know when a message they have received was not created by the person who sent it, which could be a potential source of misinformation.
Search the web: WhatsApp provides a simple way to double check messages that have been forwarded many times to help 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.
Support for fact checking: We have partnered with the International Fact-Checking Network to make certified fact checkers available on WhatsApp, enabling direct fact checks via end-to-end encrypted messaging. During the United States election, users can message FactChat for more information.
Public Education Campaigns and Partnerships: We encourage people to think about the messages they receive and verify the facts via official trusted sources. WhatsApp has launched large-scale education campaigns to help address misinformation in several countries, including our campaign “Share Joy, Not Rumours.”
Voter registration and voting information: We encourage civic participation so people can exercise their democratic rights. In some countries, people need to proactively register to vote ahead of elections. In the United States, WhatsApp is working with Vote.org, a non-partisan NGO that promotes voter participation. By messaging Vote.org on WhatsApp, people can get information on how to register to vote, vote-by-mail, or connect with voter protection experts.