In what initially appeared to be a mysterious case, several Kashmiris living outside of the region, found people disappearing from the instant messaging app WhatsApp.
Knowing that residents of the state have been enduring an internet shutdown for four months now, Kashmiri natives living abroad took to Twitter to share screenshots of their WhatsApp contacts exiting groups on the app.
In the wake of the disappearances, people also urged WhatsApp to consider the situation in Kashmir before deleting inactive accounts from the region.
Kashmir contacts automatically "exiting" from my WhatsApp groups today.— Sabah Hamid (@akh_koor) December 4, 2019
I know they would not have been able to see my messages anyway, but this is heartbreakingly symbolic.
🛑 @WhatsApp Please pay attention to this. There is no Internet in Kashmir for the past 4 months now, and your algorithm is deleting Kashmiri Whatsapp accounts which have been inactive for over 120 days, for no fault of theirs.@evgenymorozov @zeynep @Snowden @AOC @PopTechWorks https://t.co/PbNRdVTfRi— Shehla Rashid (@Shehla_Rashid) December 5, 2019
4 months of inactivity, WhatsApp accounts from Kashmir are getting deleted. Weird to see individuals you haven't spoken for all these months 'leave' WA groups whereas in reality an important part of their digital imprint - images, videos, texts & memories attached - vanishing.— Khalid Shah (@khalidbshah) December 4, 2019
Suddenly all my contacts from Kashmir are ‘leaving’ the #Whatsapp groups, and their WhatsApp accounts are getting lost. Remember there is NO internet in #Kashmir from the last 4 months. What kind of sinister moves are these? @facebook @WhatsApp @UNGeneva @UNHumanRights— Soprich (@soprich2) December 4, 2019
But netizens later realised that according to the platform policies of Facebook-owned- WhatsApp, inactive accounts can be subjected to suspension if the accounts remain unused for over 120 days.
Apparently, as per the WhatsApp policy, inactive accounts are deleted after a certain period of time.— Khalid Shah (@khalidbshah) December 4, 2019
The instant messaging app, that has a user base of 400 million people in India addressed the subject and said it "deeply cares" about its users.
"To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. When that happens, those accounts automatically exit all their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the Internet and joining WhatsApp again," said a WhatsApp spokesperson.
The special autonomy allowed the state's legislature to make its own laws. It also banned people from outside the state from getting state government positions.
Earlier in November, internet service providers in Kashmir restored the internet to over 100 businesses including hotels, travel agents, IT companies and some business organisations; as well as police and some government offices, however, internet access in the disputed valley remains limited.
Kashmir is a Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan. Both nations claim the entire region as their own territory and have fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining their independence from British rule in the 1940s.