Following widespread criticism of the way its service is used to spread false information and news in India, WhatsApp has hired a “grievance officer” for the country.
WhatsApp did not respond to a request for comment on Lahiri’s hiring and her role. Her LinkedIn account, however, states that she has been “Senior Director, Global Customer Operations & Localization” at WhatsApp since March. Prior to that, she spent over three years with Facebook and Instagram in the U.S.
WhatsApp claims over 1.5 billion active users per month, India is its largest market and it accounts for an estimated 200 million of that figure. Despite the many benefits of a more connected society, information on WhatsApp has led to a number of troubling incidents. That includes the killing of five people who visited a rural village but were beaten to death after being falsely accused of being child kidnappers due to the spread of rumors on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has tried to advise people by taking out full-page advertisements in an assortment of daily newspapers as well as educational camps, but the Indian government has pressured WhatsApp to do more. The IT minister met with WhatsApp COO Chris Daniels after it had sent two letters to the company asking it make its service more accountable and enable law enforcement agencies to use it.
The company has instead said it is impossible to track messages since its service is end-to-end encrypted. It has added features in India — one indicates when a message has been forwarded, and another limited the number of times messages can be forwarded on — but that hasn’t solved the problem. WhatsApp is at least stepping up its efforts with this hire, but it remains to be seen how adequate a job Lahiri can do from the U.S.
More widely, WhatsApp does seem to be struggling make hires in India.
While this role is located in the U.S, the company is still trying to fill the position of ‘head of India’ and its head of policy in the country, too. Facebook itself is also hiring for a managing director for its India business.