Draft IT intermediary rules: Social media firms seek clarity on grievance body

Social media firms as well as consumer-centric cyber forums sought more clarity from the government regarding setting up of grievance appellate committees as part of the ministry of electronics and IT’s (MeitY) stakeholder consultation on the draft IT intermediary rules, 2022, held on Thursday. Clarity was sought in the areas relating to the qualification of the members of the proposed committees and whether consumers would also be part of it. The stakeholders also suggested removal of certain ambiguities from some of the clauses.

Through the proposed changes in the IT intermediary rules 2022, the government plans to make social media firms like Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc, more accountable. All the stakeholders have to send their written submission by July 6, after which the rules are likely to be notified by the end of next month.

During the consultation, some of the stakeholders suggested that government should come out with some kind of penalty provisions for social media firms in case of non-compliance. However, minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that the new rules are meant to make the internet safer for digital citizens and not making it tough for social media firms. “The government’s perspective is to ensure four boundary conditions for policy and rule making around the internet – that is openness, safety and trust, accountability and complete compliance to the Indian constitution,” Chandrasekhar said.

The minister reiterated that setting up of grievance appellate committees was the best possible option available with the government now as the current redressal mechanism was not working but if the industry comes up with some kind of self-regulatory body, the government would be happy to accept that.

As per the proposal, these committees shall consist of a chairperson and such other members, as the Central government may, by notification in the official gazette, appoint.

These committees would adjudicate complaints by users relating to blocking of content or accounts by the grievance redressal officers of the social media firms.

The government feels that the said committees would provide an alternative to a user to file an appeal against the decision of the grievance officer rather than directly going to the court of law. Hence, the user can appeal to the said committee in case of his dissatisfaction with the order of the grievance officer and seek an alternative redressal mechanism. However, the user has the right to seek judicial remedy at any time.

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