Facebook, Twitter Ordered To Resolve Complaints In 90 Days; Govt Panel Will Check Takedowns?
Government-appointed panels are now empowered to review content moderation decisions or takedowns by platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Formation of committee
These are some of the changes to India’s contentious new IT rules announced on Friday.
As part of the changes ‘Grievance Appellate Committees’ will be formed in order to settle, in three months, issues users may have against the way social media platforms initially addressed their complaints regarding content and other matters.
“The central government shall, by notification, establish one or more grievance appellate committees within three months from the date of commencement of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022,” the notification said.
Each of these committees will consist of a chairperson and two whole-time members appointed by the central government.
One will be a member ex-officio and two shall be independent members.
“Any person aggrieved by a decision of the grievance officer may prefer an appeal to the grievance appellate committee within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of communication from the grievance officer,” it said.
The panel will then deal with the appeal “expeditiously” and try to resolve the appeal finally within 30 days from the date of receipt.
Another amendment introduced would require companies to acknowledge complaints from users within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days or 72 hours in case of an information takedown request.
The move is likely to be interpreted as a way of reducing the power of big tech firms, which have come under increasing scrutiny in India since a clash between Twitter and BJP last year.
Modi’s government has had strained relations with many Big Tech companies, and the BJP administration has been tightening regulation against firms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
The tension over social media content decisions is primarily due to companies often receiving takedown requests from the government or removing content proactively.
As it is, the platforms are already required to have an in-house grievance redressal officer and designate executives to coordinate with law enforcement officials.
Activists slammed it as an effort to censor free speech.
They say that the panels could mean greater government control over content online.
Advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation said the changes “cause injury to the digital rights of every Indian social media user” and called the methods of choosing appeals for their review “opaque and arbitrary”.
“[The committees are] essentially a government censorship body that would hear appeals against the decisions of social media platforms to remove content or not, thus making bureaucrats arbiters of our online free speech,” it said in a statement.
“This will incentivise platforms to remove/suppress any speech unpalatable to the government or those exerting political pressure and increase government control and power since the government will be effectively able to also decide what content must be displayed by platforms,” the group warned.