Not just one, but there will be multiple grievance appellate committees that will be set up to deal with appeals of users against the decisions of grievance officers of intermediaries, Minister of State in Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said.
Grievance Appellate Committees is a new feature of the proposed amendments to the Information Technology Rules 2021.
This proposed committee would be able to override decisions of social media platforms regarding user, account suspensions and other issues.
This will largely affect the grievance redressal mechanism of Meta, Facebook and Instagram, Google (including YouTube, Twitter, Telegram) and other major social media intermediaries.
In June, when the draft amendments were brought in and thrown open to the public for consultation, the ministry had reasoned its introduction as it had observed ‘many instances’ where grievance officers of intermediaries did not address grievances satisfactorily.
In an exclusive interaction with Moneycontrol, Chandrasekhar said, “Firstly, the grievance appellate committees will be digital, and they will be multiple. If there are 10,000 appeals, obviously there cannot be one GAC handling.”
“The government is not interested in sitting and becoming an appellate Committee. It is because you are not doing your job in the grievance level, that we are forced to create this committee,” Chandrasekhar said.
The proposed creation of this committee has been questioned by industry bodies such as Nasscom and Asia Internet Coalition. For instance, Nasscom, which represents over 3,000 Indian companies, and AIC which represents Big Tech such as Twitter and so on questioned the independence of this proposed platform.
Twitter recently went to the court against the Indian government regarding account and tweet blocking orders issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under Sec 69A of the IT Act. Twitter in its petition has claimed that many of these orders did not meet the requirements of the Sec 69A.
However, Chandrasekhar said, “Why is it that you don’t ask about the independence of the grievance officer? Why is it that only when the government sits in an appellate committee, you want to talk about independence?”
“The problem today is that the grievance officer model is patchy and inconsistent. Some people are doing a good job, some people are ignoring it,” he added.
The appointment of grievance officers, apart from other appointments, were made mandatory last year when the government brought in IT Rules 2021. The rules brought in additional compliance requirements such as to trace the first originator of information on its platform and so on.
During the consultations of the proposed amendments to the IT Rules 2021, the ministry had also made it clear that, instead of the proposed grievance appellate committee, the government is also open to the idea of a self regulatory body created by the industry in order to protect users ‘harm’.When asked about the ideal structure of such a body, Chandrasekhar said that it would be any structure that effectively disincentivise grievance officers to play ‘football with user grievances’.