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Deplatforming and data problems may be addressed by social media appellate committees

The committees are being created to give users a way to contest judgements made by internet intermediaries’ grievance officers.

The Indian Express has learned that the appellate committees the Center will select to handle consumers’ arguments against the grievance resolution offered by online intermediaries may address a range of concerns, including content moderation, de-platforming, and data protection. Three of these committees are going to be established by the government.

Deplatforming and data problems

The government will designate one or more grievance appellate bodies, according to a notification of revisions to the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021 issued by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) in October (GACs). The committees are being set up to give users a way to challenge decisions made by the internet intermediaries’ grievance officers.

It was previously accepted that user complaints regarding content filtering and deplatforming would only be investigated by the government-appointed grievance appellate panels. However, the scope of these committees’ work may be far broader than that. “The GAC will not be limited in the kinds of grievance appeals it can accept. It may involve a variety of disagreements between a user and an online service provider, such as content moderation, de-platforming, or even data protection, according to a senior government official.

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“The government is now working on the layout of these committees to provide them with the authority to handle a variety of user requests. As of now, there is an agreement that three such panels will exist.

Each GAC will be required to include a chairperson, two full-time members, one of whom will be a government official, and two “independent members,” according to the updated IT Rules. While handling users’ appeals, GACs may seek assistance from individuals who may have sufficient knowledge and experience in a particular field.

The GACs will implement an “online conflict resolution mechanism” in which the whole appeal process—from the filing of the appeal to the final determination—will be conducted online. Every order approved by the GAC must be compiled and reported on the websites of intermediaries like social media companies and e-commerce platforms.

Any person who disagrees with a decision made by a social media intermediary’s grievance officer has thirty days to seek an appeal with the GAC. Within a month, the GAC is anticipated to address and decide on the appeal.

Civil society groups are outraged by the Center’s selection of such panels. In a petition to MeitY in July, the Delhi-based organization Internet Freedom Foundation for Digital Rights warned that the clause might “make the Central Government (rather than an independent court or regulatory agency) the arbitrator of lawful expression on the internet.” Social media sites would be encouraged to censor any speech that would not be acceptable to the government, public officials, or others with the ability to impose political pressure.

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The committees are being created to give users a way to contest judgements made by internet intermediaries’ grievance officers.

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