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September 26, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:23am

FT closes Whatsapp group sharing free stories as platform clamps down on bulk messaging

By Freddy Mayhew

The Financial Times has closed a Whatsapp group through which it shared one free markets story per day with individuals who had signed up.

A message sent to the group this week read: “Unfortunately this group will soon close. Thank you for following us and we hope you’ll continue to read our markets stories via other platforms.”

The FT said a change in policy at the mobile messaging app, which is owned by Facebook, was behind the decision and that it had otherwise been a “huge success” and would not have been closed.

It claims the audience had nearly tripled in just over a year, since it publicised the service last summer, and with a “high volume of valuable traffic” being sent to the FT’s website.

“We would have continued this engagement initiative but Facebook has changed its policy and no longer allows publishers to use editorially-driven strategies to reach larges audiences on Whatsapp,” the FT said.

Whatssapp did not comment for this article, but has previously said automated or bulk messaging is a violation of its terms of services and warned that it will take legal action from 7 December against it.

An article on the company’s website makes clear that it is a “private messaging platform originally built to help people message their friends and loved ones”.

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It adds: “We are committed to reinforcing the private nature of our platform and keeping users safe from abuse.”

Whatsapp offers two business tools to help companies manage customer interactions, but said its products are “not intended for bulk or automated messaging”, which includes newsletters.

The FT’s content sits behind a metered paywall, but stories shared on the Whatsapp group were free to access for its members, whether or not they were FT subscribers.

Last week the FT’s entire website went free for 24 hours as it launched a campaign to promote a campaign for a “better form of capitalism”.

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