Friday, December 06, 2019

Kashmiris disappearing from WhatsApp as India keeps up internet blockade

Facebook spokesperson says disappearances were the result of WhatsApp’s policy on inactive accounts

Facebook spokesperson says the disappearances were the result of WhatsApp’s policy on inactive accounts. Photo: File

NEW YORK: The Kashmiris, whose access to the Internet was blocked by the Indian government four months ago, are gradually losing their WhatsApp accounts one by one as a result of its Facebook's policy on inactive users, according to media reports.

“On Wednesday, Kashmiris began disappearing from WhatsApp…”, BuzzFeed News, an American news website, reported.

New Delhi annexed Indian occupied Kashmir on August 5 and placed the disputed state under a military lockdown, with a complete blackout of communications and arrest of thousands of citizens, especially young men, as well as political leaders.

No one was quite sure why Kashmiris were losing their WhatsApp accounts until a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the disappearances were the result of WhatsApp’s policy on inactive accounts.

“To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity,” the spokesperson said.

“When that happens, those accounts automatically exit their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the Internet and joining WhatsApp again.”

But Facebook has not yet responded to questions about how many Kashmiris were affected.

“Facebook-owned WhatsApp is used by some 400 million Indians, making the country the company's largest market in the world,” BuzzFeed News said. “So when Kashmiri people began disappearing en masse from groups to which they belonged, a lot of people noticed.

“After all, it has been four months since India's government had shut down Kashmir's internet services, cutting off the region from the rest of the world — which suggests that the Kashmiris who have been disappearing from their WhatsApp groups this week did not do so on their own and may not even know that anything has changed.”