New Delhi: Facebook Inc.-owned messaging service WhatsApp has appointed a grievance officer for India, besides detailing the process to flag concerns and complaints, including those around fake news. The move partially fulfils the demands of the Indian government to curb the spread of rumours. The grievance officer, Komal Lahiri, who was appointed last month, will be based in the US, said one person familiar with the development.

According to the social media giant’s website, a user can contact the grievance officer on email, signed with an electronic signature, or send queries through postal services. “If you’re contacting us about a specific account, please include your phone number in full international format, including the country code."

The complaint or concern to the grievance officer can also be related to WhatApp’s terms of service and questions about user accounts. “If you’re a law enforcement official, please read our information for law enforcement authorities and how you can contact us," it added.

The development comes at a time when the social media giant and the Indian government are at loggerheads over the mechanism to ensure traceability of fake messages. After WhatsApp said it was not possible to trace the origin of a message on its platform, given its privacy settings, the government appeared unwilling to give in and, instead, sought “technical innovation" from the company to address the issue.

Last month, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had met WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels and requested him to devise ways to trace the origins of fake messages, set up a local corporate entity and appoint a grievance officer to address complaints to curb the spread of deadly rumours.

Earlier, the IT ministry had written to WhatsApp twice, asking it to come out with effective solutions to bring in accountability and facilitate law enforcement.

On its part, apart from running user education campaigns in India, WhatsApp has capped the number of forwards to five to curb mass spamming. Besides, the quick forward button next to media messages has also been disabled. On 3 July, the social media giant rolled out a new feature to clearly mark “forwarded" messages.

Last month, the Supreme Court sought the response of WhatsApp and the government on a plea alleging that the social media giant has not complied with the provision of appointing a grievance officer and other laws of India. The apex court was hearing a plea filed by the centre for accountability and systemic change seeking to restrain the social media giant from proceeding with its payment system, unless it fully complies with provisions of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Email queries to WhatsApp remained unanswered till the time of publishing this story.

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