By Elton Gomes
Mobile messaging app Whatsapp has appointed Komal Lahiri as it grievance officer for India. The company has also formulated a detailed process wherein users can flag concerns and complaints, including those concerning fake news and misinformation.
Complying with one of India’s primary demands to curb the spread of misinformation on the app, WhatsApp’s website now reflects the appointment of a ‘Grievance Officer for India’. The update mentions that users can seek assistance through the mobile app, send an email, or write to grievance officer Komal Lahiri, who is based in the US.
Who is Komal Lahiri?
Komal Lahiri’s Linkedin profile says that she has been associated with WhatsApp since March 2018, where she currently works as senior director of global customer operations and localization.
Before WhatsApp, Lahiri joined Facebook as Director, Product Planning and Operations of Shared Services in August 2014. Thereafter, she worked in the position of Senior Director of Community Operations and Head of Community Support for two years and nine months.
In addition, Lahiri has worked as Senior Director of Financial Risk Platforms at global online payments company, PayPal. Lahiri held several positions during her six-year tenure at PayPal, including Director, Consumer, Business & Credit Products Risk; Director, Global Disputes Policy & Experience; and Director, Product Management.
Lahiri completed her BCom from Pune University and has acquired a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from the Institute of Management Development and Research, Pune.
Why has WhatsApp taken this step?
WhatsApp’s decision to appoint a grievance officer comes at a time when the Indian government seems dissatisfied with the company over the traceability of fake messages.
WhatsApp rejected the Indian government’s demand to trace the origin of a message, saying that doing so would violate its privacy guidelines. However, the Indian government forced WhatsApp to use technology to address the issue.
The development assumes significance after IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels in August. During the meeting, Prasad urged Daniels to set up a local corporate entity, and appoint a grievance officer to address complaints to stop the spread of deadly rumours.
What will the grievance officer do?
According to WhatsApp’s website, users can use the “help” section under “settings” on the mobile app to reach out directly to the company’s support team. In case users with to escalate a complaint, they can contact the Grievance Officer directly.
WhatsApp has said that Lahiri will be based in the US, and users will be able to contact her via post at the company’s Menlo Park address in California. “To contact the Grievance Officer, please send an email with your complaint or concern and sign with an electronic signature. If you’re contacting us about a specific account, please include your phone number in full international format, including the country code,” WhatsApp said in a statement, Business Today reported.
Complaints or concerns relating to WhatsApp’s terms of services and other questions regarding users’ accounts can also be directed to the grievance officer, WhatsApp said. “If you’re a law enforcement official, please read our information for law enforcement authorities and how you can contact us,” the company’s statement said, Live Mint reported.
Why is WhatsApp’s decision to appoint a grievance officer important?
The government has been constantly pressing WhatsApp to develop tools to combat false misinformation, and the appointment of a grievance office will be seen as a victory for the Indian government, who has done very little to curb the spread of misinformation.
WhatsApp eventually had to bow down keeping in mind that India is its biggest market with more than 200 million users. Forcing WhatsApp to do the work, the government has shown a lack of understanding of how modern messaging tools work – this also gave the government sufficient reason to blame WhatsApp for every mob violence-related death.
WhatsApp’s decision to appoint a grievance officer is important after the Supreme Court, in August, agreed to examine a petition alleging that WhatsApp does not comply with Indian laws, which include the provision of appointing a grievance officer.
As India prepares for general elections next year, the Narendra Modi government is having a tough time curbing the spread of misinformation through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Seemingly unable to come up with a solution to the fake news menace, the government had warned WhatsApp that it will treat the messaging platform as an abettor of rumour propagation and legal consequences will follow if adequate checks are not in place.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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