Days after India’s new IT rules came into effect, WhatsApp announced its grievance officer for the country. It has named Paresh B Lal as its grievance officer for India. On its website, Facebook-owned instant messaging app writes that now users can contact Paresh B Lal through a post box in Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, Telangana.
WhatsApp’s move comes in the backdrop of the new IT rules coming into effect last week. India’s new IT rules, announced on 25 February 2021, require “significant social media intermediaries” — those with other 50 lakh users — to appoint a grievance officer, nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. And, these personnel are required to be resident in India.
The rules also require these social media platforms to publish a monthly compliance report mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken on the complaints as well as details of contents removed proactively.
News agency PTI reports that 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, the report said.
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.
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.
(With inputs from PTI)
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