WhatsApp appoints grievance officer after mob killings in India

WhatsApp has appointed a “grievance officer” to help curb the spread of fake news on its platform in India.

The country is WhatsApp’s biggest market, with more than 200 million users, and where the messaging app has been linked to a spate of mob lynchings.   

According to the Press Trust of India on NDTV, WhatsApp has responded to government demands that it stop the spread of false information on its service by appointing a grievance officer to field concerns.

In a statement, WhatsApp named Komal Lahiri for the role. Ms Lahiri is based in the US, and is currently the senior director of global customer operations and localisation in Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

“To contact the Grievance Officer, please send an email with your complaint or concern and sign with an electronic signature,” a WhatsApp statement reads.

Alphr has reached out to WhatsApp for comment about the new position, and whether it sets a precedent for the app in other countries. It is also unclear how WhatsApp will process the concerns that are sent to Ms Lahiri, and what measures will be taken if serious reports are raised.

The appointment of a dedicated grievance officer is the latest move by the company to combat fake news in India. Following several mob killings in the country, and a warning by the government that the company would face legal consequences if it remained a “mute spectator”, WhatsApp in July set a limit on the forwarding of messages.

In India, that limit is capped even further than in other territories, with one user only being able to forward a message to five others.

Although there’s nothing to stop one of those users forwarding messages to five others, WhatsApp said the aim is to curb the frequency of messages being forwarded.  

WhatsApp has also invested in newspaper advertisements detailing how users can spot misinformation on its platform. Infographics in the ads include “questioning information that upsets you”, “checking photos in messages carefully” and “using other sources”.  

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