By Elton Gomes
On Wednesday, WhatsApp announced that it had appointed Abhijit Bose as its India head. Bose will join WhatsApp in early 2019.
Bose will develop WhatsApp’s first full country team outside of California, and it will be based in Gurugram, WhatsApp said in a statement.
“WhatsApp is deeply committed to India and we are excited to keep building products that help people connect and support India’s fast-growing digital economy. As a successful entrepreneur himself, Abhijit knows what it takes to build meaningful partnerships that can serve businesses across India,” said Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer of WhatsApp, as per a report in Business Standard.
Bose’s appointment comes less than a month after a meeting between India’s information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and Chris Daniels, WhatsApp’s vice-president. In the meeting, Daniels had told Prasad that WhatsApp had incorporated a local unit in India whose operations would begin soon.
In an earlier meeting with Daniels, Prasad had requested him to come up with ways to trace the origins of fake messages on WhatsApp. Daniels rejected this demand, but said that WhatsApp would set up a local corporate entity and appoint a grievance officer to address complaints to curb the spread of rumours.
Bose certainly has some big shoes to fill, as the Indian government has blamed WhatsApp for not doing enough to curb the spread of misinformation. Rumours circulated on WhatsApp had resulted in numerous mob-lynching related deaths across India this year.
“WhatsApp is special and can be a major partner for financial inclusion and economic growth in India. It’s not only how so many families stay in touch, but increasingly it’s how businesses are engaging with their customers. WhatsApp can positively impact the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians, allowing them to actively engage and benefit from the new digital economy,” said Bose, the Economic Times reported.
Bose co-founded a digital payments solutions provider Ezetap in 2011, where he also served as CEO. Bose graduated from Cornell University, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He had previously worked at Oracle and Bain & Co.
WhatsApp’s grievance officer
Faced with pressure from the Indian government to curb the spread of fake messages, WhatsApp appointed Komal Lahiri as the grievance officer for India.The company also detailed out the process for users to lodge complaints, including those around fake news.
By appointing a grievance officer, WhatsApp fulfilled one of the key demands put forth by India. The Facebook-owned company updated its website to reflect the appointment of a “Grievance Officer for India”. The update mentioned that users can seek help through the mobile app, send an email, or write in to Lahiri, who is based in the US.
WhatsApp’s measures to curb fake news
WhatsApp came under fire due after several reports linked mob violence and lynching-related deaths in India to the spread of misinformation and fake/altered videos on the platform. To curb the spread of fake news, WhatsApp introduced some new features.
WhatsApp began tagging messages as “forwarded”. The forwarded label works for photos, videos, and text messages, thus making it easier for users to identify messages that are being circulated. The forwarded label will hopefully make users mindful of what they mass forward.
WhatsApp was also testing a “Suspicious Link Detection” feature, wherein users would have been alerted through the appearance of a red label on fake links, or links to alternative websites.
WhatsApp also employed print media in its fight against fake news in India. In July, the company published advertisements in leading Indian newspapers to tackle the spread of misinformation.
In addition to using print media, WhatsApp also introduced a radio campaign. In August, WhatsApp said it would introducing radio campaigns across various Indian states. The campaign asked people to carefully check the accuracy of information received as a forward before they shared it with others.
The radio campaign was rolled out on August 30 across 46 Hindi-speaking stations of All India Radio across Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.