Centre seeks nominations from FICCI to form panel on oversight mechanism
The ministry of information and broadcasting has written to industry bodies to nominate members for the oversight mechanism under the new social media and intermediary guidelines, people familiar with the matter said. The inter-departmental committee, which will form the apex of the three-tier redressal mechanism, will for the first time include members from industry bodies, documents reviewed by HT show.
“This is a confidence-building move and will silence the critics of the Oversight Mechanism that assumed that the committee will only comprise of bureaucrats,” a person familiar with the matter said. “The rules already provide for domain experts in committee. Now it has been specified as to from where the domain experts would be drawn from.”
The new oversight mechanism will include one member each from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and Confederation of Indian Industry, one member from the Bar Council of India and a member from the Press Council of India. The first two shall be experts from the media and entertainment sector, the third a legal expert and the fourth an expert from the field of journalism.
Aside from these, the committee will also have members from ministries such as the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, and Ministry of Defence. The ministry has given the industry bodies 10 days to nominate the members.
This committee will take a call on whether content posted on over the top platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar, and digital news media websites violates section 69(A) of the IT Act. The oversight mechanism faced pushback from several stakeholders who argued that it would lead to government censorship of content and has been challenged by a number of digital news platforms in court.
At present, the government has an inter-departmental committee under the Information Technology Act which is headed by a designated officer from the central government. The order to block a post/account on social media is passed by this designated officer who chairs an inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from the Ministries of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). The committee vets requests from several different stakeholders, including states and central agencies, and also gives the intermediary a hearing. The designated officer at present is Pronab Mohanty. The orders are passed under section 69(A) of the IT Act.
Under the new guidelines, the ministry of information and broadcasting gets to appoint a separate designated officer. Joint secretary Vikram Sahay will head this oversight mechanism from the ministry of information and broadcasting.
The new committee shall meet “periodically and hear the following complaints regarding violation or contravention of the Code of Ethics by the digital media publishers entities referred to under Rule 8, that is, arising out of the grievances in respect of the decisions taken at the level I or level II or for cases where no such decision is taken within the time specified in the grievance redressal mechanism”. Grievances referred to the committee by the I&B ministry will also be taken. Level I of the mechanism refers to the grievance redressal by the platform itself, while level II is the oversight body chosen by the platforms.
The new intermediary and digital media guidelines require platforms to appoint officers, grievance redressal officers in case of OTT and digital news media platforms, institute a three-tier mechanism for grievance redressal with an inter-ministerial committee at its apex and give the I&B ministry takedown powers over the content circulated online. The rules, which were notified in February, have been challenged in the court by several digital news media outfits, including LiveLaw and TheWire.
HT on July 30 reported that information and broadcasting secretary Amit Khare said that the government has not received a single serious complaint where it had to intervene regarding content on over the top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix and Hotstar, and digital news media outlets since the new intermediary and digital media rules came into effect on February 25. “In the last five months, there has not been a single occasion when the oversight mechanism of the government was used to resolve any complaints,” Khare said then. “This was the purpose of creating a self regulating mechanism; it was always any enabling pro