The Centre has announced the guidelines under which it would form appellate panels to resolve grievances that consumers may have regarding decisions made by social media sites like Twitter and Facebook regarding the hosting of disputed content. In three months, a three-member Grievance Appellate Committee will be established, and they will work to find a solution within 30 days.
Along with pornography, trademark infringements, false information, and other items that may pose a threat to the sovereignty of the country, the government has now added objectionable religious content (intended to incite violence) to the list of items that users can report to social media platforms. Such flag-related decisions made by them can be challenged before grievance committees.
“These IT rules are the next step to realising our goals of an open, safe, and trusted, accountable internet,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the state minister for electronics and information technology (Meity). “They also mark a new partnership between government and internet intermediaries in making and keeping our Interest safe and trusted for all Indians.”
The Internet Freedom Foundation, on the other hand, claimed that the provisions establishing the so-called grievance appellate committees are essentially a government censorship body that would hear appeals against the choices made by social media platforms regarding whether or not to remove content. This would make bureaucrats the arbiters of our online free speech.
The statement continued, “This will incentivise platforms to remove/suppress any speech unpalatable to the government or those exerting political pressure and increase government control and power since the government will be effectively able to also decide what content must be displayed by platforms. We urge for a thoughtful consideration by Meity to formulate a rights-respecting approach towards platform regulation. A step in that direction would be to withdraw IT Rules, 2021 in its entirety.”