India cracks whip against Twitter, Facebook, others over contentious posts, notifies rules

India has notified rules for social media grievance appellate committees

| Updated on: Oct 28 2022, 22:41 IST
When Elon Musk tweet sparked horror online abuse against Vijaya Gadde at Twitter
Vijaya Gadde
1/6 Elon Musk tweet back in April had sparked a storm against Twitter's Vijaya Gadde. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s previous tweets have caused a controversy following his completed takeover of Twitter. (PowerfulJRE YouTube)
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2/6 Elon Musk’s old tweets about Twitter’s top lawyer Vijaya Gadde are back in the spotlight after he took a bold step on his first day as the new owner of Twitter by firing Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde. (Wikimedia Commons)
Elon Musk Twitter deal
3/6 Musk was responding to a tweet from Saagar Enjeti, host of a political podcast and called the move “incredibly inappropriate.” According to Bloomberg, while Musk didn't identify Gadde by name, the post was in response to an article in which she was mentioned. (AFP)
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4/6 Enjeti tweeted on April 27, “Vijaya Gadde, the top censorship advocate at Twitter who famously gaslit the world on Joe Rogan's podcast and censored the Hunter Biden laptop story, is very upset about the @elonmusk takeover.” (Breaking Points/YouTube)
Elon Musk
5/6 Musk has frequently used the social media platform as a way to criticize the company’s decisions, especially when they involve banning accounts from people who violate Twitter's rules and policies. Twitter has banned people like American rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West due a couple of anti-semitic tweets recently. (PTI)
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6/6 A flurry of negative, and even abusive tweets from Twitter users followed Musk’s comments directed at Gadde. Racist slurs were tweeted referencing Gadde’s Indian heritage, with words like “curry” used to target the Twitter lawyer. Users questioned Gadde and blamed that she “destroyed countless @Twitter accounts for speaking the truth.” Racist comments were even hurled at ex-Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal. (AFP)
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Government has even set a deadline for social media companies to follow while providing grievance redressal for users. (MINT_PRINT)

In a big development today, India has notified rules under which it will set up 3-member Grievance Appellate Committee(s), which will redress grievances of users against decisions made by social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook over contentious content on their platforms. These will be set up within a three-month period, according to a gazette notification issued by MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology). Interestingly, this comes on the day that Indian origin Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal was sacked by the new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.

In its reaction, digital rights advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation in a tweet said: "The notified Amendment Rules cause injury to the digital rights of every Indian social media user."

The content that the new rules will be applicable to includes objectionable religious content (with intent to incite violence) alongside pornography, trademark infringements, fake information and something that could be a threat to sovereignty of the nation. Users can first flag contentious content to social media platforms and if their decisions can be challenged in these committees.

This goes against what thee social media companies wanted. They had advocated self-regulation, but the government wants a separate body to deliberate on users' concerns.

This problem is not new as the government had, in February 2021, notified IT rules that provided for social media platforms to appoint a grievance officer to whom users could flag complaints. The latest step gives more powers to users to raise complaints.

Not just that, the government has even set a deadline for social media companies to follow while providing grievance redressal to users. The amendments provide for social media platforms to acknowledge user complaints within 24 hours, and resolve them within 15 days thereafter. Significantly, social media platforms will have to take down certain contentious content within 72 hours of reporting.

The complaints could range from child sexual abuse material to nudity to trademark and patent infringements, misinformation, impersonation of another person, content threatening the unity and integrity of the country as well as "obectionable" content that promotes "enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion or caste with the intent to incite violence".

The appellate committees will be able to review content moderation and other decisions by social media companies such as Meta and Twitter.

"The central government shall, by notification, establish one or more grievance appellate committees within three months from the date of commencement of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2022," the notification said.

"Any person aggrieved by a decision of the grievance officer may prefer an appeal to the grievance appellate committee within a period of thirty days from the date of receipt of communication from the grievance officer," it said.

The grievance appellate panel will deal with such appeal "expeditiously" and make an endeavour to resolve the appeal finally within thirty calendar days from the date of receipt of the appeal.

"The grievance appellate committee shall adopt an online dispute resolution mechanism wherein the entire appeal process, from filing of appeal to the decision thereof, shall be conducted through digital mode," it said.

Incidentally, the move comes at a time when CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc Elon Musk has completed his USD 44-billion takeover of Twitter, placing the world's richest man at the helm of one of the most influential social media apps in the world.

The government had, in February 2021, notified the IT Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 for social media apps, online news portals, news aggregators and OTT platforms. However, even after providing for the redressal mechanism through the IT Rules, 2021, many user grievances remained unresolved.

The government has made it amply clear that social media companies cannot undermine the constitutional rights of citizens, and that internet must be a safe and trusted place with all platforms accountable to their users.

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First Published Date: 28 Oct, 22:39 IST