WhatsApp hired a US-based grievance officer for India in August and informed the IT Ministry of the hire two weeks ago. The company updated their website with the contact for the officer, Komal Lahiri.
A senior IT ministry official confirmed with the Indian Express that WhatsApp had informed the ministry of a grievance officer hire for India fifteen days ago. A letter from the WhatsApp CEO conveys the same, said the official.
“They have conveyed that they have appointed a grievance officer for India, which does not mean a grievance officer in India. There is a difference. When they are going to appoint in India, I do not know. They did mention to us that they are looking to set up some positions in India,” the official said.
Those familiar with the development, which came via website update without any public announcement, suggested that this is a compliance-oriented hire.
In a meeting at the end of August, IT Minister Prasad told WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels to implement three measures: A grievance system in India, compliance with Indian laws, and a corporate entity in India.
Over the past couple of months, the IT Ministry, along with the Department of Telecommunications, have expressed a need for technology companies to take on more responsibility.
Following a spate of lynchings across the country spurred by WhatsApp rumours of child-lifters, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad sent his first letter to WhatsApp early July, urging action against misinformation spreading on its platform. WhatsApp responded in a letter listing some recent feature and organizational changes, including a forward label, an admin-only feature, and educational campaigns.
In a second letter, the IT Ministry stated that these efforts were not enough, asking for technological solutions to curb rumours. WhatsApp has continually stressed that it will not weaken the privacy standards of the platform. WhatsApp cannot see the content of messages on the platform but can see meta-data, which is information about the messages including contact lists and mobile phone numbers.
The IT Ministry is reportedly drafting a third letter to the company. Since then, WhatsApp has hired Pragya Mishra for Policy Communications, based in India. The company also released a radio and newspaper campaign.
The minister traveled to the Silicon Valley in July to meet with various tech companies.