Fake news menace: WhatsApp appoints dedicated grievance officer for India

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New Delhi | Published: September 24, 2018 2:08:09 AM

WhatsApp has appointed a grievance officer for India, who has been tasked to deal with concerns and complaints raised by the users regarding issues including fake and provocative content being spread on the instant messaging platform.

Fake news menace: WhatsApp appoints dedicated grievance officer for India

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has appointed a grievance officer for India, who has been tasked to deal with concerns and complaints raised by the users regarding issues including fake and provocative content being spread on the instant messaging platform.

The grievance officer, Komal Lahiri, who joined WhatsApp in March this year from Facebook, is already working as a senior director for global customer operations and localisation. At Facebook, she was the head of community support for the social networking site and its subsidiary, Instagram. She is based at WhatsApp’s Menlo Park office in California.

A WhatsApp user who wants to report an issue can either email Lahiri or write to her. Users can also contact her regarding issues related to the platform’s terms of service as well as about their account. The company has updated details about the grievance officer on its website in the FAQ section.

The development comes almost a month after WhatsApp’s CEO Chris Daniels met IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on August 21 and assured him that the company will appoint a grievance officer for India as well as will incorporate the company as a corporate entity as per Indian laws. WhatsApp, however, declined to accept India’s request for tracing the origin of fake and provocative content stating that this goes against the company’s privacy policy. It is, however, running an awareness campaign to educate users on fake news and content. The campaign covers 17 states and 8 regional languages.

With a grievance officer in place and the company in the process of registering an Indian entity and top leadership, experts said WhatsApp can then assist law enforcement agencies in tracing the source of fake content as and when it is reported.

Although messages on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, their origin can be traced using source codes. Source codes are used in mobile phones and e-mail networks to trace messages. While in phone networks it is called call data record, in e-mails it is called Internet Protocol data record.

“If a grievance officer is there, upon a complaint the source code of the message can be traced. Every message, be it via SMS, e-mail, or WhatsApp, has a source code and a destination code, and can be traced via it. This can happen without breaking either the encryption or privacy policy,” a technology expert told FE.

However, for such traceability there needs to be a domestic entity which is bound by local laws mandating how long the data is stored by the company concerned, the expert added.

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