The government plans to set up appellate committees to redress grievances that users may have against the way social media platforms initially addressed their complaints regarding content and other issues, officials said. While tech giant Meta (which owns Facebook and WhatsApp) and microblogging site Twitter have been pushing for a self-regulated grievance appellate framework, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) wants adjudications to be done by three-member grievance appellate committees.
The panels will be constituted by tweaks in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. Amendments may provide for social media platforms to acknowledge within 24 hours user complaints and resolve them within 15 days. The complaints could range from child sexual abuse material to nudity to trademark and patent infringements, misinformation, impersonation of another person and content threatening the unity and integrity of the country.
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Any person aggrieved by a decision of the grievance officer of social media platforms may prefer an appeal to the appellate committee within a period of 30 days, they said, adding that the amendment may provide for setting up of one or more such panels to address issues with different social media platforms. The government had, in February 2021, notified the IT Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 for social media apps, online news portals, news aggregators and OTT platforms.
However, even after providing for the redressal mechanism through the IT Rules, 2021, many user grievances remained unresolved, prompting the government to step in and propose an appellate jurisdiction framework. Each grievance appellate committee may consist of a chairperson and two whole-time members appointed by the central government, of which one will be a member ex-officio and two independent members.
The grievance appellate panel will deal with such appeal expeditiously and make an endeavour to resolve the appeal within 30 days from the date of receipt of the appeal. There had been pushbacks from industry and some stakeholders on the proposal for the grievance appellate committee after the government, in June, circulated the draft rules around this. At present, “there is no appellate mechanism provided by intermediaries nor is there any credible self-regulatory mechanism in place”, the IT ministry had then said.