WhatsApp has named Paresh B Lal as its grievance officer for India on its website.
The move comes in the backdrop of the new IT rules coming into effect last week that require significant social media intermediaries – those with other 50 lakh users – to appoint a grievance officer, nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel are required to be resident in India.
As per WhatsApp’s website, users can contact Paresh B Lal – who is the ‘Grievance Officer’ – through a post box in Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, Telangana.
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Earlier, sources had said WhatsApp was updating the details of the new grievance officers appointed, to replace the existing information on its platform.
Emails sent to WhatsApp did not elicit a response.
Large digital companies like Google have begun updating their websites to reflect the appointment of grievance officers as per the new social media rules.
Google’s ‘Contact Us’ page shows details of Joe Grier as a contact person with an address from Mountain View, US. The page also contains details on the grievance redressal mechanism for YouTube.
As per the rules, all intermediaries have to prominently publish on their website, app or both, the name of the grievance officer and his/her contact details as well as the mechanism by which a user or a victim may make a complaint.
The grievance officer will have to acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and dispose of such complaint within a period of 15 days from the date of its receipt, and receive and acknowledge any order, notice or direction issued by the authorities.
Under the new rules, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for nudity, pornography etc.
The Centre has said the new rules are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.
Non-compliance with the rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.
After the new norms came into effect on May 26, the IT ministry had turned up the heat on significant social media companies, asking them to immediately report compliance and provide details of the three key officials appointed.
The new IT rules also require significant social media intermediaries – providing services primarily in the nature of messaging – to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information, that undermines sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order.
The large platforms have to also publish periodic compliance reports every month mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken, and the number of specific communication links or parts of information that the intermediary has removed or disabled access to in pursuance of any proactive monitoring conducted by using automated tools or other reasons.