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India sets up government panel to hear complaints over social media content moderation

NEW DELHI, Oct 28 (Reuters) – The Indian government on Friday announced changes to its information technology (IT) rules that will apply to social media companies, in a move likely to be seen as a a brake on big tech companies.

Under the amended rules, which come into effect on October 28, a government panel would be formed to hear user complaints about social media platforms’ content moderation decisions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has had strained relations with many big tech companies, and New Delhi has tightened regulation of companies such as Facebook (META.O), YouTube (GOOGL.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N ).

The tension around social media content decisions has been a particularly vexing issue in India, with companies often receiving government takedown requests or proactively removing content.

Social media companies are already required to have an internal grievance officer and designate executives to coordinate with law enforcement officials.

Under the amended rules, companies would be required to acknowledge user complaints within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days or 72 hours of a request for removal of information.

In June, the government published a draft amendment to the Information Technology Act that would require companies to “respect the rights granted to citizens under the constitution of India” and proposed to set up a panel governmental.

The Indian government is concerned that users upset over decisions to have their content taken down do not have a proper system to appeal such decisions and that their only legal recourse is to go to court.

“A number of (tech) intermediaries have acted in violation of the constitutional rights of Indian citizens,” the government said in June, without naming any company or specific rights.

The government panel will consist of a chair and two full-time members, two of whom will be independent members.

Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean

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