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Center to set up panels to oversee social media content moderation

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Oct 30, 2022 10:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

On October 28, the Union Information Technology Ministry announced the formation of Grievance Appellate Committees, which will have authority over content moderation decisions made by social media platforms in India.

The decision to form such panels within the next three months was announced as an amendment to the Centre's new Information Technology Rules, which were introduced in 2021.

The establishment of grievance committees effectively means that if users are dissatisfied with a social platform's decision to remove or moderate any content, they can now file an appeal with the government.

According to a gazette notification issued by the information technology ministry, each Grievance Appellate Committee will have a chairperson and two full-time members appointed by the Centre.

Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted saying that the appellate committees would empower social media users.

How would the appellate committees function?

Social media users would first need to file an application with the grievance officer of the intermediary platform, who would be required to acknowledge the complaint within a day and resolve it within 15 days.

Complaints involving content that is allegedly obscene or pornographic, or that threatens the unity and integrity of the country, must be resolved within 72 hours, according to the notification.

If a user is dissatisfied with the action taken by the social media platform, they can appeal to the government's Grievance Appellate Committees. These committees will then resolve the issue within 30 days, according to the information technology ministry.

The Grievance Appellate Committee can also take the assistance of “any person having requisite qualification, experience and expertise in the subject matter” while deciding on the appeals, the notification also said.

The new IT Rules

The new rules, which will be notified in February 2021, are a set of broad regulations designed to regulate social media companies, streaming services, and digital news content, effectively bringing them under government supervision for the first time.

The new rules give a self-regulatory body and an inter-departmental committee broad punitive powers to "warn/censure/admonish/reprimand the publisher" or even censor content as they see fit for digital news media and video streaming platforms.

Several media outlets have filed legal challenges to the new rules. They claim that the guidelines will give the government direct control over their content. The Supreme Court stayed the proceedings in various High Courts on petitions against the new Information Technology Rules in May.

The decision came after multiple High Courts passed orders on pleas challenging the rules.

In separate orders in March and July last year, the Kerala High Court had asked the Centre not to take action against legal news portal Live Law and the News Broadcasters Association.

A division bench of the Bombay High Court stayed the implementation of Rules 9 (1) and (3) of the new IT rules in August. The provisions address the new IT rules' code of ethics.

The Madras High Court also directed the Centre not to take coercive action against digital media organisations under the new IT rules in December. This decision was made in response to a petition filed against the IT rules by the Digital News Publishers Association, an organisation comprised of 12 digital media outlets, as well as journalist 
Mukund Padmanabhan.

Also Read: Reliance to stream AGM on virtual reality, social media platforms, first to do so

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