Finally! A Country Head for WhatsApp India

Ezetap co-founder and CEO, Abhijit Bose, has been appointed as the WhatsApp India head on Thursday

whatsapp

Under pressure from the Government of India to install a country head for WhatsApp in India, the Facebook owned messaging platform finally named Ezetap co-founder and CEO, Abhijit Bose as the India head for WhatsApp on Thursday. 

When Bose takes charge in early 2019 in addition to building the first ever WhatsApp team in India and he will also lead Whatsapp’s anti-misinformation efforts in India, a WhatsApp spokesperson told exchange4media. WhatsApp has come under fire for being a vehicle that allows the propagation of misinformation. According to police investigations, misinformation and fake news sparked a series of mob lynching in India around April this year.

The press release from WhatsApp India announcing the appointment did not mention anything about Bose’s role in WhatsApp’s efforts to curb the spread of misinformation. The press release only stated that Bose and his team will focus on helping businesses, both large and small connect with their customers. Bose comes with a background in electronic payments services and joins Whatsapp India at a time when it is facing regulatory hurdles in introducing WhatsApp Pay, its payment service, in India. 

Later, in response to a query on the role and responsibility of Bose in fighting fake news and misinformation a spokesperson said: “As you would know WhatsApp has stepped up public education about misinformation and is working with organisations like Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) to expand digital literacy training for consumer leaders. With the new team they will continue to expand on these efforts and engage with stakeholders to help keep people safe. Mr. Bose will be responsible for all the efforts here in India.” 

The Timeline

In response to the lynchings that had killed around 20 people by July, the government urged Whatsapp in July to take action against misinformation circulating on its platform in India. IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, called on WhatsApp to take “necessary remedial measures” and “immediate action” to curb the flow of unverified information. With over 200 million users in India, this is WhatsApp's biggest market in the world.       

Following the hard talk from the IT Minister, Facebook’s WhatsApp launched a campaign to create awareness about fake or false news. It also took steps to make ‘forwarding’ messages little harder for people, by limiting forwards to five chats at a time; removed the quick forward button placed next to media message; and introduced a ‘forward’ label to help identify forwarded messages. 

In August, WhatsApp and DEF initiated a series of educational workshops in 10 states as part of an effort to educate users how to use the messaging platform responsibly and further, to curb the epidemic of misinformation in India following the violence that occurred earlier this year.

The company then appointed a Grievance Officer, Komal Lahiri, who is based out of the US in September this year. The government has been persistent that WhatsApp appoint a representative stationed in India. In late October WhatsApp Vice President, Chris Daniels, met with the IT Minister and promised to appoint an India head by the end of the year. 

Preparation for 2019 General Elections 

The government has taken a tough stance on social media like Whatsapp, Facebook, and Twitter ahead of the 2019 general elections. 

The DEF-WhatsApp workshops have been focusing on key election states and those plagued with instances of provoked-violence as a result of misinformation earlier this year. According to WhatsApp, it will be conducting trainings in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, followed by Telangana this year. The teams will also cover key states such as, West Bengal, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tripura and Jharkhand by March 2019.
 

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