At a time when Mark Zuckerberg and his company are facing massive flak over issues such as fake news, user privacy, hate speech regulation and monopoly over social media, Whatsapp, a messaging application owned by Facebook is plunging into the realm of virtual payment in India. The feature is called as ‘Whatsapp Payment’ and helps users send and receive money for free after adding their bank account to WhatsApp.

To send money, the user will also need to verify the last 6 digits of their debit card and the expiration date. WhatsApp says Payments uses UPI and supports most major banks. Its banking partners include – State Bank of India, HDFC, ICICI and Axis Bank

“WhatsApp is deeply committed to India with over 400 million active users, this is our largest market. Our primary focus will always be to provide the most simple, reliable, private and secure experience for people to connect with each other. WhatsApp has proactively been working on several pilots to help ensure that every adult has access to the most basic critical financial and livelihood services through their mobile device.”
-Abhijit Bose, WhatsApp India Head

After beginning its testing in the year 2018, Whatsapp was granted approvals only last month in November from National Payments Corporation of India. The company has designed Whatsapp Payment based on Unified Payment Interface (UPI) system. Whatsapp initially tested this feature on one million users.

However this journey may not be as easy the company wants it to be. It faces fierce competition from big names such as Paytm, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and PhonePe.

Why is Facebook eyeing India?

Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that India is an important market for him, hence his partnership with Jio is no coincidence. Facebook has invested 5.7 billion dollars which is Rs 43,574 crore in Jio. Both companies hope to benefit from this investment but for Facebook especially, tapping into India markets can help the company gain revenue and further branch off its user base.

However, the social media giant is facing massive scrutiny in India. On December 13, a Wall Street Journal journal report claimed that the company refused to act on video uploaded by a right wing group. This controversy comes on the heels another report by the same U.S media outlet headed by Amazon claiming Facebook refused to act against a BJP leader’s hate speech. Remember, the company is yet to shrug off the Cambridge Analytica, a crisis which dented company’s reputation in 2018.

Since the controversy first broke out in August, Facebook has vowed to regulate its internal process & response mechanism to content uploaded on its site. But this is not the cause of worry for the company, Mark was repeatedly questioned during the U.S Presidential elections over the alleged inaction taken by the company over the posts uploaded by Republican leaders. Back home in Asia, Facebook’s hegemony over social media space in Myanmar has also led to critics accusing the company of influencing public opinion.

With Facebook aiming to branch out and explore new territories many critics have already raised privacy concerns over the new payment module. But can this feature be a redeeming feature or will it open new can of worms for the company.

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