MeitY can stick with a government-backed GAC for social media content issues
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 2021 IT rules require major social media intermediaries (SSMIs) – platforms with more than 5 million users – to appoint a resident complaints officer to adjudicate 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 the ensuing 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 grievance redress by social media, 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 interaction with the media, had said that there would be several grievance appeal boards to handle user appeals against the 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 need to make sure that the industry doesn’t become its own judge and similarly 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.