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Exclusive: WhatsApp’s India grievance officer is not a company employee

India’s new social media rules require that large social media companies appoint an India-based grievance officer to address user complaints and is an employee of the company. However, WhatsApp’s grievance officer is not an employee of the company but a lawyer working for a law firm.

At least three sources directly aware of the situation told Entrackr that WhatsApp’s resident grievance officer Paresh B. Lal is not an employee of the company and in fact is a senior associate at AZB & Partners, one of India’s leading corporate law firms that counts WhatsApp as one of its clients.

One of these sources also said that Lal is an interim appointment. 

WhatsApp declined to comment on our queries asking them if Lal was a WhatsApp employee and whether he was an interim appointment. Paresh B. Lal and AZB & Partners did not respond to our queries until publication. 

WhatsApp also wouldn’t say why it has appointed an external grievance officer when the social media rules require that they be a company’s employee — suggesting that WhatsApp isn’t yet fully compliant with the social media rules.

Another key thing to note is that on Thursday, June 17, WhatsApp changed its India address to that of law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. In doing so, it followed the footsteps of its parent company, Facebook, which mentions the same law firm’s address for its India grievance officer, which is: 216 Okhla Industrial Estate, Phase III, New Delhi – 110020. 

However, that wasn’t always the case.

At least until the night of Wednesday, June 16, WhatsApp mentioned a different India address on its site: Post Box No. 56, Road Number 1, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana – 500034. 

We have asked WhatsApp about this change and will update the story when they respond.

Earlier on Thursday, Entrackr had reported about how Facebook mentions the address of an external law firm for its grievance officer Spoorthi Priya and wouldn’t confirm if the officer was an employee. We also checked the grievance officer of Instagram, and it is the same as Facebook’s grievance officer – Spoorthi Priya. Also, the contact address listed on Instagram’s website is the same as listed for Facebook and WhatsApp. 

So with this, Facebook and Instagram share the same grievance officer and all three have the same contact address, which happens to be that of a law firm. 

We have reached out to Instagram for more details about Spoorthi Priya’s role in the company and if she is an employee. 

Queries sent to the IT Ministry on whether it has any concerns with WhatsApp appointing a grievance officer who isn’t its employee remained unanswered at the time of publication. 

So far, Twitter has largely drawn the ire of the government ever since the social media rules came into force on May 26. 

In a “last notice” sent to Twitter earlier this month, the government had rapped the company for not complying fully with the new social media rules as its interim grievance officer, Dharmendra Chatur, wasn’t an employee of the company, but a lawyer with an external law firm.

Then on Wednesday, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even launched a scathing attack on Twitter saying that the company has “failed” to comply with the social media rules. This was after the UP Police filed an FIR naming Twitter for allowing a video where an elderly Muslim man was being beaten to go viral. 

The Ghaziabad Police has also summoned Twitter India’s MD Manish Maheshwari in relation to the case within the next seven days. 

Twitter declined to comment.

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