Money is many things, but it’s not news that is fake. So why block WhatsApp from spreading it around? India is the lab of choice for Western technology companies to test their mobile payment capabilities out so that they can be rolled out to Nigeria from Bangladesh. Facebook Inc., By allowing the popular messaging service WhatsApp to send and receive money in India, CEO Mark Zuckerberg entered the fray two years back. However, the beta version, restricted to 1 million users, keeps getting blocked from becoming a full-fledged service. Meanwhile, rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay, Walmart Inc.-owned PhonePe and Softbank Group Corp.-backed Paytm are dominating India’s mobile transfers landscape. The troika led with 75 million, 60 million and 30 million customers transacting last month, respectively, based on TechCrunch. While Facebook Inc., deserves scrutiny internationally for providing a platform for hate speech, voter manipulation and dissemination of untruth, cashless transfers is one place where WhatsApp is a force for good. That’s true in emerging markets like India. Hundreds of millions of migrant workers in urban centers lack both liquid savings and a security net Since the Covid-19 lockdown has underscored. Increasingly ubiquitous smartphones can bring the financial security that bank branches can’t provide to vulnerable citizens. To control WhatsApp is a waste. Four years ago, the country set up a port. An account holder in any of them receive or can send money to anyone else. Both parties don’t have to know anything more than every other’s mobile number or a ID. From Google to Walmart, any program can tap on the protocol, which supports transactions worth more than 10 percent of gross domestic product. Google is so impressed it wants the U.S. Federal Reserve to consider embracing the standard. WhatsApp needs a nod from the regulator, the National Payments Corporation of India, to throw open the switch. The first roadblock was the central bank’s requirement that payment data be stored only locally. The service remains limited, although that hurdle was crossed. In February, a little-known think tank filed a lawsuit, asking India’s Supreme Court to block payments on WhatsApp’s known to have failed to secure data of its users. In an affidavit this week, WhatsApp said that the request by the “busybody” wasn’t maintainable. Legal challenges in India can drag on endlessly. The prevalence of the messaging program, which has more than 400 million Indian users, is its biggest strength and its worst enemy. Take pinBox, which wants to introduce electronic micro-pensions to the masses across Asia and Africa. It’s waiting for WhatsApp payments. The mix of electronic and financial illiteracy can be a showstopper; it’s much easier to promote a culture on a messaging program where people spend most of their waking hours, anyway. The familiarity with the medium cuts both ways. The service was used to accuse Muslims in India of transmitting Covid-19, triggering assaults on the minority community. But disinformation isn’t restricted to WhatsApp or India. TikTok, the most-downloaded program during the pandemic, had articles asserting that 5G technology helps spread the virus, fueling violence against telecommunications workers and equipment throughout the U.K. and Europe. In India, the user-video system has raised hackles for enabling sharing of content that promotes acid attacks on women.While regulators should push Zuckerberg to keep making social media safer, for instance by restricting message forwarding, they need to be pragmatic when it comes to online payments. China is. But that current market, at the pincer grasp of Alipay and WeChat Pay wallets, isn’t open to U.S. firms. Besides, the scope for substituting cash is larger in India, where 14 percent of money supply is still currency in circulation, a figure that China has crunched to 4 percent. The size of the opportunity is why India is attracting attention.Facebook recently took a 10 percent stake in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms Ltd. for $5.7 billion. Jio’s 4G community is India’s largest. Asia ambani ’s wealthiest man, wants to connect a billion-plus buyers combining physical and digital retail. Payments via WhatsApp is going to be a means to achieve that link, with brands offering discounts and financiers offering in-store credit according to Jio’s scoring model.Others will catch up. Amazon.com Inc. is planning to take a $2 billion stake in Bharti Airtel Ltd., Jio’s nearest competition, Reuters has reported. According to the Financial Times, Google is currently exploring an investment in Vodafone Group Plc’s struggling India wireless business. (Vodafone Idea Ltd. said there’s no such proposal prior to its board.) The rising global interest in digitizing the market that was billion-plus-people could be sustained, as it coincides with what might be a war between the West and China. It has yet to enact a data protection law, Though India has recognized privacy for a right, providing grounds for challenges against companies. That’s on limiting competition, where the focus must be, not. The bank should strike a balance between encouraging innovation such as account aggregators and protecting financial stability, who share financial data with the approval of users looking for insurance or loans and compile. With services in disarray and manufacturing, cash that is helping go viral is India’s best opportunity to break out of the Covid gloom.
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