Reiterating his earlier remarks on social media platforms or intermediaries, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), on Thursday said the firms ‘have to’ comply to the Indian laws, whether they like it or not.
MeitY, on June 6, had put up a fresh draft notification seeking comments from the intermediary (social media) companies for amendments in Part-I and Part-II of the IT Rules, 2021, considering whether to set up one or more appellate Committee/s with the power to reverse the content moderation decisions of these firms.
The grievance appellate would then oversee the grievance officers of the social media companies. MeitY had asked forstakeholders response which was open till June 22 (Wednesday). “The government has no interest in creating multiple layers of dispute resolution…in a way this is a decent set for platforms or intermediaries who are not doing their jobs. You can’t just appoint a grievance officer and say ‘I am done with my responsibility with all’. Responsibility/ accountability is to for the grievance officer to dispose off the grievance in a fair and equitable manner,” he said while addressing the concerns of the stakeholders.
“I can assure to the audience that we will have new laws very soon and a lot of stuff today that you think is slightly vague and will need a court to interpret it, will find itself in the law. This gives you a directional view on the way we think about where the digital citizens ought to be in this equation between platform or intermediaries in one hand and citizens on the other hand,” he said.
It was also revealed that the number of grievances which MeitY is receiving over the last few months have gone up. “We are not really talking about legality here, that’s where we are looking for suggestions from the group (stakeholders). We are finding the need for it…the number of grievances that we see, which we are receiving in Ministry have gone up and there appears to be, in some cases, clearly a bit of arbitrariness on the part of the platforms. The number of court cases in the recent past have also gone up precisely for the same reason,” Rakesh Maheshwari, Group Coordinator, Cyber Laws Division at MeitY, said.
Therefore, particularly for the significant social media platforms, MeitY is conveying that there should be a reasonable opportunity given to the user before the content/information is taken down.
“The fact remains that people are claiming that no such reasonable opportunity is available and people are ending up either to the Ministry or with the court. And, that is where we are trying to work out some kind of a middle layer,” Maheshwari added.
No active responses
Some of the stakeholders also pointed out that the grievance officers or compliance officers of the social media platforms are yet to give active responses. They just auto reply to the complaints of users right now, they noted.
On the issue of appellate committee, Chandrasekhar reiterated that “the government has no interest in doing this, but it was something forced on the government because of the lack of response or consistent response by the intermediaries.
The participants included officials from Meta (Facebook), industry bodies like Nasscom, Assocham and Broadband India Forum and cyber law experts such as Pavan Duggal and Anuj Agarwal.
June 23, 2022