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By Fiona Mehta

 

The Ministry of Information Technology has requested public feedback on changes to IT rules that went into force last year, with the goal of regulating content and encouraging companies to respond more quickly to legal requests to remove posts and provide information about message originators.

 

The Indian central government is considering establishing an appeals body with the authority to overturn social media companies’ content moderation judgments, the Information Technology ministry announced on June 2, 2022, in what would be the first such action of its type in the world.

The information was revealed in a paper seeking public input on proposed changes to IT rules that went into effect last year and aim to regulate social media content and hold companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter more accountable. According to the paper made public on Thursday, there might be more than one such appeal tribunal. It establishes a 30-day deadline for appeals against company grievance officers’ rulings, followed by another 30-day period for the panels to consider the subject.

Social media companies must already have an in-house grievance redress officer and designate executives to work with law enforcement. In a newly added clause, the draught guidelines state that “the intermediary shall respect the rights guaranteed to individuals under the constitution,” referring to social media businesses.

India ranks among the largest sources worldwide of government requests for content takedowns to Twitter Inc and Meta Platforms Inc. Facebook Sees 38% rise in Hate Speech as well as 86% in Violent Content on Instagram in April 2022.

According to Apar Gupta of the Internet Freedom Foundation, the ministry’s plan will give it more power over social media platforms by allowing it to hire personnel to oversee content moderation decisions. “This is problematic, for this committee will lack any autonomy and is being formed without any statutory, or clear legal basis,” added Gupta, the group’s executive director.

Tensions have risen between India’s nationalist government and Twitter, which refused to completely comply with instructions last year to remove accounts and messages accused of disseminating false information about farmers’ demonstrations against the government.

Last year, government authorities indicated that if social media companies failed to respect domestic information and technology rules, they may no longer be eligible for liability protections as intermediaries or hosts of user content.