Centre forms grievance panels for social media takedowns
Those who are dissatisfied by the action taken against content and/or accounts by intermediaries may appeal to the panel within 30 days of the decision being received
The Centre on Friday notified three grievance panels that will take the final call on social media takedowns, as proposed by an amendment to the information and technology rules notified last year.
The panels have been appointed “in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rules (1) and (2) of rule 3A of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021,” the government said in a gazette notification.
The move has been opposed by several members of civil society and industry stating that it will give the government far-reaching powers over what content stays online.
Defending the amendments, Union minister Rajeev Chandrashekar said last year that the rules have been amended against the backdrop of complaints regarding the action, or the lack of it, on the part of the intermediaries on user grievances regarding objectionable content or suspension of their accounts.
Those who are dissatisfied by the action taken against content and/or accounts by intermediaries may appeal to the committee within 30 days of the decision being received. The intermediaries are mandated to follow the directions of the panel, else they may lose safe harbour or immunity from prosecution that is provided to them under Section 79 of the IT Act.
Chief Executive Officer, Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), Ministry of Home Affairs, will act as the ex-officio chairperson of the committee, while Ashutosh Shukla, Indian Police Service (Retired), Sunil Soni, former Chief General Manager and Chief Information Officer, Punjab National Bank, will be members for three years in the first panel.
The second panel will be headed by Joint Secretary in charge of Policy and Administration Division in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, with Commodore Sunil Kumar Gupta (Retired), Shri Kavindra Sharma, and former Vice President (Consulting), L&T Infotech Limited as members.
Meanwhile, the third panel will be chaired by Kavita Bhatia, Scientist G in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and will consist of Sanjay Goel, Indian Railway Traffic Service (Retired), and Krishnagiri Ragothamarao Murali Mohan, former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, IDBI Intech Limited as members.
Since the panel members are being appointed by the government, civil liberties activists said it will amount to giving it the final say over what content stays up or is taken down, with powers to overrule companies like Meta that runs Facebook and Twitter, if they remove or refuse to act on posts.