The government establishes a “Grievance Appellate Committee” for grievances over social media.
On February 28, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology initiated the “Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC)” portal by the IT Rules, 2021, enabling individuals who are unsatisfied with complaints made to social media platforms regarding content takedown queries to have their cases heard by one of three committees that the government has created.
This represents a change in the way social media is censored in India. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were modified last year to necessitate social media companies upholding all the rights guaranteed to residents by the Constitution, including those found in articles 14, 19, and 21, indicating that social networking sites may now be required to permit speech that is not permitted on their platforms but otherwise lawful to convey in public.
To handle concerns and put these adjustments into effect, three committees were established in January. The public can now submit appeals on the GAC’s website. Platforms were previously required by the IT Regulations to have a procedure in place for users to file complaints about content and appeal takedowns; however, corporations’ actions regarding these appeals will now eventually be governed by the GACs’ orders.
Not just India is moving away from viewing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as merely private “middlemen” with the authority to regulate dialogue on their platforms. The US Supreme Court is currently deliberating issues that, if decided against platforms, may require the latter to allow speech that they have previously sought to censor on their platforms. According to a brief released on Monday by the Washington, D.C.-based Reporters Committee for the Free Press, it is uncertain what the Supreme Court of the United States will rule based on the case’s current hearing arguments.
With regards to the creation of the GACs, the Software Freedom Law Center stated in a previous year that “this is a case of substantive legislative provisions being formed through the process of subsidiary legislation without any legislative deliberations.” The IT Department has stated that it is drafting a “Digital India Bill” to strengthen the legal foundation for IT Regulations and other digital legislative powers, although it has not yet made any specifics of this planned law public.