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MeitY can stick with a government-backed GAC for social media content issues

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In the context of its contacts with major social media groups, the government could stick to its plan to create a Grievance Appeals Committee (GAC) for the sector.

Any intermediary self-regulatory body will have to work on the same mechanism as the GAC, a government official said.

The IT Rules, 2021 require significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) – platforms with more than 5 million users – to appoint a resident grievance officer to adjudicate on content-related complaints.

In June this year, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed a GAC ​​that could overrule grievance officers’ decisions.

In subsequent public consultations on the amendment, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Computing, said the government was open to the idea of ​​self-regulation of media grievance redress. social issues, as some SSMIs have expressed concern about the GAC.

The official said MeitY was working on the contributions it received from overseas social media intermediaries.

He said questions about the inclusiveness of the self-regulatory body prompted the government to move forward with the GAC.

“The Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) can only cover a few companies working outside India. The SRO model, if implemented, will only cover a few social media platforms,” he said. stated, adding that the SRO could only coexist with the GAC model.

“Or else there will be just the GAC and no SRO. We have given our proposal and we are sticking to it,” the officer said.

Chandrasekhar, in a recent media interaction, had said that there would be several grievance appeal boards to handle user appeals against decisions of intermediary grievance officers.

The official said: “Legally, there must be the same option available to individuals against any intermediary.”

The new developments have alarmed civil society groups.

Amol Kulkarni, director (research) at CUTS International, said there needed to be a balance between the SROs and the GAC. But, according to him, it may be a temporary arrangement until the government comes up with the new IT law.

“We have to make sure that the industry doesn’t become its own judge and likewise the government doesn’t push its agenda by sitting on top of the industry,” Kulkarni said.

“In addition, the SRO must ensure adequate representation of other relevant stakeholders, such as consumer groups, subject matter experts and independent fact-checkers, to ensure that it remains impartial,” a- he declared.

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