News & Analysis

Govt. Plans Committee to Oversee Social Media Grievances

The issue got highlighted following a central minister taking legal recourse to get links related to her family removed by Google and Twitter

When union minister Smriti Irani sought legal recourse to get objectionable content about her family members removed from social platforms, the players involved were quick to do so because the courts had ordered it. What happens when such instances occur between two entities, one of which happens to be the government itself?

Given the recent skirmishes between the union government and social media companies, the former appear to be slowly veering towards the creation of a grievance appellate committee that could arbitrate on such issues. A report published by the Business Standard quoted a government source to suggest that any self regulatory body of intermediaries would have to work on the same mechanism as that of the entity suggested above. 


What does it actually mean?

As per the IT Rules of 2021, there is a significant requirement of social media intermediaries whereby platforms with over five million users need to have a resident grievance officer to decide on complaints associated with content that goes up on it. The government is merely creating a model that others can follow.

Minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar had said following public discussions over the proposed amendments to the IT Act that the government was okay with self-regulating grievance redress mechanisms. His comments came when some representatives of social media companies expressed concerns over forming a government committee.

The ministry is reportedly working on the format of the committee based on inputs from the social media intermediaries overseas. The question of inclusiveness of the self regulatory bodies is what prompted the government to consider a central grievance appellate committee. 


Self-regulation alone may not suffice

The thinking was that while the self regulators would cover a few overseas companies, they still require it to co-exist with the model proposed by the government, failing which the case may be that the government would insist on the appellate committee with no room left for individual self regulating bodies within social media companies. 

Though the matter remains under the purview of the government, some concerns have already started coming up whereby civil society voices claim that handing over self regulation as the only option could result in the judge and the jury being the same person. 

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