about 2 years ago
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We are all used to Whatsapp now. We cannot imagine living a life and communicating, essentially forwarding inane messages to known and unknown contacts via Whatsapp. But it would be nice; rather more peaceful to look at a life without Whatsapp, given the ongoing debacle.

UAE has banned VoIP through Whatsapp or for that matter any such services except their own approved service – Botim, where they can keep a track. China has completely banned Whatsapp for the same security reasons. Well, UAE and China are not exactly the examples that we want to follow but given the current controversy, its best to look at things minutely.

Did you know that Whatsapp, which has 200 million users from India does not even have an office here? That too when it has started payment gateways on its app. And that is crux which the Govt has picked on. The Supreme Court has asked Whatsapp to respond to a petition that alleges it breaches certain Indian regulations. This comes on the back of the turmoil it created over fake news.

Whatsapp does not comply with the Information Technology Act 2000, which mandates “the appointment of Grievance Officer by all intermediaries.”  It is also mandated to have a Grievance Officer for users in India. Yet, it is being allowed to continue with its Payments and other services, without any checks.

This Grievance Cell is mandated by the IT Act to ensure that queries and issues of users are handled by a locally appointed Grievance Officer. What we learn is that Grievance Officer is based in California, handling India-related issues. The petition clearly says, ““In order to provide payment services, WhatsApp must be directed to store data in Indian servers as mandated by the RBI, and pay taxes on income caused due to its operations in India,” 

The question is whether India has the power like China to bend companies like WhatsApp to local rules and regulations? Would they have violated rules in their own country or for that matter, dared to do that in China? Isn’t India a lucrative market enough for WhatsApp?

In fact beta testing of WhatsApp payments service on a million Indians started in February this year. WhatsApp has already announced its app for small businesses - WhatsApp Business. The company has not yet announced how much it will be charging but the news is that it would be around Rs.5-6 per message. So going forward, it is most certainly looking at making big money from one of its biggest markets in the world. Can they afford to ignore us?

Holding Whatsapp responsible for the lynching mobs is pushing it too far. How can it be responsible for what a user does; a user on whom they have no control? We cannot advocate censorship in communications; look at it the other way – isn’t it dangerous to give WhatsApp a censor role? Yes, we are fair in asking Whatsapp to follow the rules when it has changed from an Over The Top (OTT) service to a telecom service providing company.

With not even a server in India, we cannot help but asking Facebook, “what’s up dude?”

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