Address panel on social media grievances in place at the end of November: Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar | Techy Kings


The government will in the next 10-12 days come up with proposed terms and terms of reference for the “grievance redressal committee” that will deal with unresolved grievances of social media users, and expects the panel to be in place by November 30, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Tuesday.

Asserting that compliance with IT regulations and laws is not a ‘pick and choose’ or ‘cherry-pick’ option for social media platforms, the minister made it clear that the government will not be a mute spectator to the fight between platforms and citizens, if complaints of “digital nagriks” are not effectively addressed, despite being flagged.

Chandrasekhar said the government had been open to the industry coming up with an effective self-regulatory organizational structure (for user complaints), and had actually waited nearly 2.5 months even after the rules were finalized, for the industry to respond with a firm proposal.

“I am saying even today that the government is not interested in playing the role of appellate body. If the industry, working with consumer organisations, can come up with credible frameworks where appeals which are not processed because the grievance redressal mechanism is not satisfactory, are taken up. by SRO, we are still open to it,” said Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for IT.

The tougher IT rules, announced last week, have laid the groundwork for the formation of government-appointed GACs that will resolve concerns users may have about how social media platforms initially handled their complaints about content and other issues.

“We will be rolling out the architecture, design and terms of reference for the GAC in the next 10-12 days and I will also assure you that nothing will be finalized or announced without consultation with both the consumers and the industry,” Chandrasekhar told PTI.

The draft will be followed by meetings and discussions to ensure that “everyone is clear and happy with the goals, objectives of the GAC and how it will work both in terms of consumers as stakeholders, as well as industry and platforms as stakeholders,” the minister assured.

Also read | Twitter, Facebook, other social media platforms must follow Indian laws: Minister

“I see no reason why we should not have a GAC ​​in place before November 30,” the minister said.

The new changes to IT rules impose a legal obligation on social media companies to take all efforts to prevent blocked content and misinformation, the government said on Saturday, making it clear that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook operating in India must comply with local laws and constitutional rights for Indian users.

The amended rules allow for the establishment of appeals committees that can overrule decisions by the big tech companies to remove or block requests, where user complaints have remained unresolved despite being flagged.

The rules have also made it clear for the mediator to respect the rights accorded to Indian citizens under Articles 14 (non-discrimination), 19 (freedom of expression, subject to certain limitations) and 21 (right to privacy) of the Indian Constitution.

“We have made it clear that there is no arbitrariness that will be acceptable anymore. Platforms will have to give a person the proper process to explain themselves before deplatforming. It will be more fair and just for users, and less arbitrary for the platform,” he explained.

The hardening stance against major tech companies comes at a time when discontent has grown over alleged arbitrary actions by platforms on flagged content, or intermediaries that do not respond quickly enough to complaints and even de-platform users without following proper procedures.

The minister further said that GACs will also act as a “traffic sign” on the internet; that is where appellate disputes concern the IT ministry, it will resolve these grievances. The parties are free to appeal such decisions to the court. When complaints relate to areas outside the IT Ministry’s purview, the GAC will direct the appeal to the relevant courts or administrative ministry.

Compliance with regulations and laws are not “pick and choose” or “cherry-pick” options for platforms, Chandrasekhar said, warning that if and when regulations are not followed, the “safe harbors” enjoyed by platforms fall away.

“If platforms increasingly comply with the content moderation obligations that have been set out, which address user harm, national security and disinformation…then there is no need for the safe harbor to go. But it is a natural consequence of the rules that if platforms don’t comply with the obligations imposed on them to make the Internet a safe and reliable space, then there is no consequence or obligation on any part of the government to provide them with a safe harbor,” he says.

In other words, safe harbor protection is “deserved”, provided the platform does its part to keep the internet safe and reliable by ensuring that the content flagged as causing user harm is not on it.

Amid concerns about the growing influence of big tech companies globally, electric car maker Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk on Friday completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, putting the world’s richest man at the helm of one of the most influential. social media apps in the world. Incidentally, the microblogging platform has had several meetings with the government in the past.

To a question on how the Center views the top-level changes on Twitter, Chandrasekhar said, “The government is looking at the internet through the prism of keeping it safe and accountable to 120 million digital nagriks (digital citizens). Safe and reliable internet is an integral part of the goal of the digital economy trillions of dollars.”

The minister went on to add: “We are not looking at this through the prism of any one owner’s ideology… All of these issues are irrelevant to how we approach rule-making and law-making, and our duty to ensure an open, secure and accountable internet.”

The government sees social media platforms as a “partner” and “it’s not an adversarial relationship,” the minister said, noting that the IT ministry has consulted widely with the platforms and been open about its expectations of platforms all along.

“In our view, the goals of an open, secure and reliable internet are a ‘win-win’ for governments, citizens and for platforms that use the internet and deliver services and products,” said Chandrasekhar.


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