How WhatsApp discovers spam without reading messages

The Facebook group blocks 2 million WhatsApp accounts per month
The Facebook group blocks 2 million WhatsApp accounts per month
How can spam messages be detected in end-to-end encryption? WhatsApp uses other tools and can already track 75% automatically using AI. Through this process, two million WhatsApp accounts are blocked per month.
Daniel Puschina,

WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users who use the messaging service on a regular basis, sending about 65 billion messages daily. According to WhatsApp, about 2 million spam accounts are blocked every month. Special bots send spam messages automatically, of which approximately three fourths can be detected by the WhatsApp algorithm itself.

Spam in this case is not just the classic advertising and news we are familiar with, but also the spreading of misinformation, which particularly in India has led to lynchings. In order to combat the spread of violence-triggering Fake News, WhatsApp has already limited forwarding of messages to five receivers.

That’s not enough for WhatsApp, because the main problem is the bots, which are designed to do their work on specially designed multiple-account devices. Because the content is encrypted, the service cannot search for specific keywords. In this case they use other methods, such as metadata. According to Matt Jones, the in-house software engineer, the transmission behavior, among other things, is scrutinized. Other revealing information includes details about the first-time WhatsApp login – which retrieves device information, the IP address, and the network provider – as well as reports from other users about unwanted messages.

According to the company, approximately 20 percent of these are taken out of circulation at the time of registration, and the rest either found by AI as a result of conspicuous features or reported by other users. Despite their great progress, however, the messaging service continues to work hard to improve the automatism.


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Daniel Puschina, 2019-02-13 (Update: 2019-02-13)
Daniel Puschina
Daniel Puschina - Editor
I am the generation who made the first computer experiences in the 90s on a 386 with the 20MHz turbo key. It was a tightrope walk between the performance limit of my computer and the scarce pocket money, but the motivation to get the last bit of performance out of it was all the greater. With 2MB of RAM, squeezing a single kilobyte out of the config.sys file was absolutely decisive for "Game starts" or "Game does not start". From this point on I also started to get more and more involved with benchmark tests, performance comparisons and tuning of components on the hardware side, which made me a permanent visitor to the Notebookcheck site in the last years. So it's a great pleasure for me to be able to write and test actively for this site myself.