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Government Appellate Panels for Social Media

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June 04, 2022

What is the issue?

The Government’s plan to set up a panel that can overturn content moderation decisions made by social media platforms is problematic.

What are government appellate panels?

  • The idea to constitute appellate committees has been proposed as an amendment to the controversial IT Rules, 2021.
  • The Central Government shall constitute one or more Grievance Appellate Committees, which shall consist of a Chairperson and other members.
  • These committees will have the final word on any content moderation issue facing a social media platform when appealed by a social media user aggrieved by an order of the platform’s grievance officer.
  • However, the user has the right to seek judicial remedy at any time.

What is the process to be followed in case of grievances?

  • IT rules- Under the IT Rules, social media companies are mandated to appoint India-based resident grievance officers as ‘intermediaries’ who enjoy legal immunity from third-party content on their platform.
  • These officers are responsible for overseeing the grievance redressal mechanism of complaints from the people who use their services.
  • The company’s grievance officer will have to act and dispose of that complaint within 15 days.
  • Currently, the only remedial measure a user has if they feel a content decision by a company is unfair is to approach the courts.
  • Draft Amendment- In case a user is not satisfied with the content moderation decision taken by a company’s grievance officer, they can appeal that decision before the government appellate committee.
  • The committee will have 30 days to act on a user’s appeal.

What are the criticisms against this move?

  • Direct scrutiny of government- The proposal seeks to subject content on social media to the direct scrutiny of the Government by permitting users to appeal decisions of social media platforms to a Committee constituted by MeitY.
  • Curbs dissent- This mechanism will help to tighten the Government’s grip on messaging on social media intermediaries thus serving as a tool to curb the dissent.
  • Additional responsibilities on grievance officers- It suggests that if a user complains about content which is patently false, infringes copyright, threatens the integrity of India, etc., a grievance officer will have to expeditiously address it within 72 hours.
  • Privacy issues- Last year, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the rules which requires encrypted messaging platforms to trace the identity of the originator of a message as it poses privacy-risk to users.

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/control-and-delete-the-hindu-editorial-on-government-appellate-panels-for-social-media/article65491365.ece
  2. https://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/social-media-appeal-panels-may-be-set-up-for-grievances-7949928/

 

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