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Govt Mulling New Committee To Control Social Media Content Takedowns

Govt Mulling New Committee To Control Social Media Content Takedowns

The draft proposes to constitute one or more Grievance Appellate Committees

Social media users dissatisfied with the decision made by grievance officers can appeal to the appellate committee

The amendments increase direct government control over social media platforms: Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation

There seems to be no end when it comes to social media guidelines in India. Just after around one and a half years of implementing social media guidelines, the central government is looking at an amendment of the IT rules. According to the draft amendment, the government has proposed to set up appellate panels to take decisions on social media takedowns.

The draft proposes to constitute one or more Grievance Appellate Committees, which shall consist of a chairperson and other members appointed by the government. According to the draft, users dissatisfied with the decision of a social media company’s grievance officer, may appeal to the committee. 

The deadline for such appeals against decisions made by grievance officers will be 30 days of receipt of communication. Following that, the grievance appellate committee will have to take the final call within 30 days of receiving an appeal.

Further, the social media platforms will be mandated to comply with the decisions made by the appellate committee.

“The Grievance Appellate Committee is set up to provide an alternative to a user to file an appeal against the decision of the Grievance Officer rather than directly going to the court of law,” the ministry said.

“Hence, the user can appeal to the said Committee in case of his dissatisfaction with the order of the Grievance Officer and seek an alternative redressal mechanism. However, the user has the right to seek judicial remedy at any time,” it added further.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has published the draft amendment on Thursday. “As the Internet access continues to rapidly expand in India, new issues related to the above commitments also keep emerging,” the ministry stated.

The intermediary shall respect the rights accorded to citizens under the constitution,” the draft amended said in a new section.

According to Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, the amendments increase direct government control over social media platforms. “Censorship and hate speech will balloon at the same time,” Gupta tweeted. 

Apar tweetsIt also added that the amendment is aimed at dealing with such new and emerging issues, as well as to address the gaps identified.

In February 2021, the government issued guidelines for social media apps including Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, as well as OTT platforms such as Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime video.

The rules were notified under the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, usually referred to as new IT rules. As per the rules, social media platforms have to appoint a grievance redressal officer. 

Earlier this year, Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw reportedly said that the government is open to bringing more stringent guidelines for social media intermediaries. He also said that social media platforms need to be held more accountable for women’s safety.