How WhatsApp fights spam

With the introduction of businesses to WhatsApp, the fear of spam in WhatsApp grows. Is that right? According to WhatsApp it isn’t.

A spokesperson told that the company is watching spam closely. “We feel that we have a good handle on things so that we can keep it under control.”

As is well known, chats are end-to-end encrypted making it WhatsApp impossible to read or view them. So the company had to look for different ways to detect spam.

The most visible measure is that users can flag messages from unknown numbers as spam. However, WhatsApp is doing more against unwanted messages.

The amount of messages that a user sends per minute is monitored continuously. With an extremely high number of messages per minute the user will be marked as spam. By doing this, the chance of unjustified bans is still relatively large, so WhatsApp has also developed an advanced spam detection system.

By analyzing and comparing data, such as internet provider, phone number and the phone network, WhatsApp tries to recognize patterns. If spam, for example, is always send via the same internet provider, this is considered as suspicious.

The company also looks at where the traffic is coming from. For example, using WhatsApp with a Dutch number via a network in Nigeria and connecting five minutes later via a network in China can impossibly be a traveler.

Continuous improvement

The spam detection is not 100% waterproof. The detection is mostly done based on assumptions and probabilities. It may therefore happen that a user erroneously is marked as spammer. He or she can contact WhatsApp to remove the ban, after which the company can improve the detection tool.

This also works the other way around: if users mark certain messages as spam, but they have not been seen by the spam detection system, WhatsApp will look at how this can automatically be marked as spam in the future.


With the analysis of metadata WhatsApp takes into account the privacy of users. A balance is always made between privacy and necessary data to detect spam. The company tries to keep the number of data as low as possible: if certain metadata adds nothing to spam detection, it is not collected.

Source: WhatsApp & Techcrunch

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