The government of India has announced changes to its information technology rules under which it will set up an appellate panel to hear the complaints that the users may have against the decisions of the social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. on moderating contentious content.
The notification amending the IT Rules was released on Friday by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
The gazette notification issued by the ministry also talks about the formation of the three-member Grievance Appellate Committee(s) within the span of three months.
According to the center’s IT rules, the intermediary is responsible for ensuring that the content posted on its platform is not obscene, religious (with the intention of inciting violence), pornographic, infringing on trademarks, false information, or anything that can act as a threat to the country’s sovereignty that could be flagged on social media. While such flagging decisions can be challenged in grievance committees. (The Indian Express)
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav tweeted: “Empowering users. A Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) has been introduced for hearing appeals against the decisions of the Grievance Officer appointed by the intermediary. “
However, there is growing discontent regarding the updated IT rules.
The Internet Freedom Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for digital rights, called the proposed panel “essentially a government censorship body for social media that will make bureaucrats arbiters of our online free speech.” (Aljazeera)
One of the few concerns raised by the foundation is that the panel “will incentivize platforms to remove/suppress/label any speech unpalatable to the government, or those exerting political pressure.”