Portal opened for complaints against decisions of social media platforms

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Tuesday launched the Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) portal under the IT Rules, 2021, allowing people dissatisfied with resolution of complaints to social media companies on content takedown requests, to be heard by one of the three committees constituted by the government.

This marks a shift in how social media content is moderated in India. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were amended last year to require social media companies to “respect all the rights accorded to the citizens under the Constitution, including in the articles 14, 19 and 21,” signalling that social media platforms may now have to allow speech that is not allowed on their platforms, but are otherwise legal to express in public.

Three committees were formed in January to receive complaints to put these amendments into action. The website of the GACs is now accepting appeals from the public. The IT Rules already require platforms to have a process for accepting complaints against content and appeals against takedowns from users; companies’ decisions in response to these appeals, though, will now ultimately be subject to the GACs’ orders. India is not the only country moving away from treating platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as mere private “intermediaries”.

The IT Ministry has indicated that it is working on a “Digital India Bill” to give a firmer statutory backing to the IT Rules.