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HomeNewsGovt to appoint 3-member GACs on top of grievance mechanisms of intermediaries

Govt to appoint 3-member GACs on top of grievance mechanisms of intermediaries

The government will set up grievance appellate committees or GACs within three months to address unresolved complaints against content moderations and takedowns made to grievance officers of social media apps, OTT platforms, news portals and aggregators, through an online dispute resolution mechanism. Users will be able to appeal with the GAC against the decisions taken by the grievance officers of the intermediaries such as Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and others.

Amending the intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics code, that were issued last year, the government has given complainants 30 days to appeal a decision made by the grievance officer, and another 30 days for the appellate committee, comprising of three members that will be appointed by the Centre, to resolve the matter.

“Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) has been introduced for hearing appeals against decisions of Grievance Officer appointed by the intermediary,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of electronics and information technology said in a Twitter post on Friday, in a notification specifying the amendments.

“Empowering users. Privacy policy and user agreements of intermediary to be made available in the Eight Schedule Indian languages,” he added.

The amendments specify that intermediaries should not display, publish or share information or content that is “obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invasive of another‟s privacy including bodily privacy complaints could range from insulting or harassing on the basis of gender, racially or ethnically objectionable, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence.”

Content that is intentionally misleading, impersonates another, belongs to someone else, is harmful to children, infringes on patents or copyrights, threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, contains viruses or violates any law, cannot be displayed or shared by the intermediary.

In cases of requests to take down content or links to content that impacts users directly such as nudity or content being harmful to children or that threatens public order causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence, or prevents investigation of any offence or insulting another nation, the intermediary will have to acknowledge a complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 72 hours, and develop safeguards to avoid misuse by users. This has been done to prevent quick dissemination of the content.

For other complaints, the intermediary can resolve the complaint within 15 days.

The amendments mandate that the intermediary should comply with India’s sovereign laws and respect the right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression, right to equal protection of the laws of India and right to protection of life and personal liberty, as specified in articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Reasonable measures must also be taken to ensure accessibility of its services to users along with reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency, the amended guidelines stated.

The amendments added that every order passed by the Grievance Appellate Committee or GAC shall be complied with by the intermediary concerned and a report will have to be uploaded on its website.

The changes to the guidelines have been made to address user complaints that have continued to emerge despite the intermediaries or social media platforms having their own redressal systems in place. The intermediaries have been advocating for self-regulating grievance appellate framework as well, but the government decided to step in and in June, circulated the draft rules that proposed setting up of grievance appellate committees by the government.

The changed guidelines also permit the Grievance Appellate Committee to seek assistance from any person having requisite qualification, experience and expertise in the subject matter, while dealing with an appeal.

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