One of the biggest online communities we have ever built consists of 1100 subscribers who regularly read one of our websites. That is quite a big community of people from a small geographical location who are willing to keep visiting your websites and reading our content.
How does it work? Easy. It is through WhatsApp.
We created a WhatsApp broadcast list that for people who want to subscribe, and this works well because it is easy to message the 1100 people who have saved your contact. You do that through a few broadcast messages.
After using the service for about 6 months, I woke up one day to find that WhatsApp had blocked the number and I could no longer send messages. This was a big blow. I wrote to WhatsApp asking why the number had been banned. The response was that we violated the WhatsApp terms and Conditions.
Attempts to get them to explain the terms that we had violated were not successful. They will not give the specific details and the case is closed.
PayPal Account Suspended
I had a similar experience with PayPal seven years ago. One fine morning they asked me to provide more details about a transaction that I made on date X, else they would suspend my account. I asked them to clarify the date because on the specific date, I did not have any transactions. I shortly received an email saying that my account had been suspended and the decision was final.
When I asked them for more information, the automated response was that they would no longer respond to my emails on that matter. The account was closed.
Faceless Tech Giants
This seems to be a common trend with most of these big tech platforms where they are faceless when they deal with individuals, but really love their users when talking about them as a whole. They do not have time or resources for individuals, but they want you as the group because data is more useful in bulk.
This has also happened to many people on Twitter who have been banned and not given sufficient reasons as to why their accounts were suspended. I bet the reason why these tech giants would not want to give specific details is that they would want to avoid close scrutiny and possible legal processes that may follow.
But is it okay to just kick people out of a platform without giving a good reason for the same? Is it right especially when you consider that some of these people are doing their best to stick to the Terms and Conditions that the same firms make them as long as possible and as complicated as they can ever be?
Some people argue that tech firms can do what they want because in many cases they are giving a free platform. This is misguided because the platform is not free; I am giving them my data in exchange for the service.
Following Terms and Conditions not Good Enough
For the WhatsApp account that was banned, we had gone to great lengths to ensure that we were in good books with WhatsApp. This included not sending automated messages, ensuring subscribers request for inclusion in the list of subscribers by having them message us first via WhatsApp, and making it easy for them to unsubscribe. All these never worked.
What did we do wrong? We do not know. We may never know because Facebook (WhatsApp) will not go into details.
Transparency is not something they may be willing to fully embrace, and the (little) progress they have made in the past few years in being more transparent has come not because they wanted to, but because they have been pressured to be more transparent.
We have a long way to go.