There are roughly 2 billion people who use the WhatsApp platform around the globe. Most Zimbabweans rely on the app to keep in touch with their friends and families and as we saw earlier this year, a ban on WhatsApp can have a debilitating effect on a lot of small busineses that use the app.

However, depending on how you use WhatsApp, you may be violating some of its term of service and if you continue to do so you might see yourself banned from the platform or even sued. The last one is very unlikely to happen to Zimbabweans though but getting banned from WhatsApp sucks- it’s cold out there ask those who have been banned before.

Bulk messages are not allowed

Those who use WhatsApp to advertise their businesses know this, sending the same message over and over (bulk messaging) is not allowed. It doesn’t matter that the people to whom you are sending the message consented or agreed to receive the message, for example, you sending a business newsletter, or news updates or weather update service for example.

Bulk messaging is banned and not allowed. I know a lot of people who send the same unedited message every morning to various business groups. For example money changers and car sellers. They just copy yesterday’s message and paste it in various groups. Some use the share button (not the forward button) to do the same. If you are doing this you are asking for trouble.

A lot of people have started receiving bans. Bans are a big deal those who have been banned have been telling us. It means you can no longer, for example, use a familiar number that might be in coveted groups to market your products. You basically have to start over with a new number as these bans can last for months. A four-month ban basically means you will never be able to rejoin those groups again as accounts are deleted after four months.

That’s not all that’s changing.

The rules were tightened over the weekend

In addition, beginning on December 7, 2019, WhatsApp will take legal action against those we determine are engaged in or assisting others in abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform. For example, off-platform information includes public claims from companies about their ability to use WhatsApp in ways that violate our Terms.

WhatsApp’s frequently asked questions the updated version

What this means

Some companies existed on the internet, for example, Duta that claimed publicly to have the ability that allowed them to send bulk messages online using WhatsApp in a way that would not get you banned. Some even charged a fee and provided a way (API) that others could use. These companies were not authorised by WhatsApp to do this.

WhatsApp is saying they are going to start going after these facilitators. These should leave a lot of businesses that relied on these services to market their products and get in touch with their customers stranded.

WhatsApp is saying use the Business API instead but there is a problem

To those who want to send bulk messages Facebook (yes WhatsApp is Facebook) is saying use the Business API which will probably involve you paying Facebook for the pleasure of advertising to your customers. That’s not the only problem about the Business API though.

Right now not everyone can use the Business API, you have to be one of the few chosen business. So not only is WhatsApp shutting down legitimate uses of bulk messages, they are not giving people an alternative means of sending news and weather updates as well as other legitimate uses of bulk messages.

What you can do?

if you are sending messages try to vary them don’t copy and paste bulk messages. You have been warned! Edit a few bits make them interesting. I know a guy who adds jokes to the beginning of his ads every day. His messages are thus different and unique from day to day. Sometimes his afternoon messages are different from his morning messages.

People laugh and his lame jokes but he doesn’t mind. Another guy uses bible verses. These people are onto something. We are not saying spam people, we are just saying be smart and stop being lazy.