Appellate panels soon to redress social media users’ grievances: Centre to HC

Appellate panels soon to redress social media users’ grievances: Centre to HC

The Union government will set up appellate panels to redress the grievances users may have against social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for hosting controversial content following amendments to the new IT rules, the Delhi High Court was informed on Monday.

Image is used for representation purposes only. Photo: Courtesy, Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The submission was made before Justice Yashwant Varma, who was hearing a batch of petitions regarding the suspension and deletion of accounts of various social media users, including Twitter users.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, placed a notice before the court dated October 28 in terms of which certain amended rules are to be introduced in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) Rules, 2021.

“The same is taken on record. Let this batch be posted for further hearing on February 6,” the high court said.

After Rule 3 of the IT Rules, Rule 3A has been inserted which says “Appeal against Grievance Appellate Committee(s)”, a gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said.

As per the newly inserted rule, the Central Government shall, by notification, constitute one or more Grievance Appeal Committees within three months from the date of commencement of the IT Amendment Rules, 2022.

“Each Grievance Appeal Committee shall consist of a Chairman and two full-time members appointed by the Central Government, one of whom shall be an ex-officio member and two shall be independent members. Any person aggrieved by a decision of the grievance officer may prefer an appeal to the grievance appeal committee within a period of thirty days from the date of receipt of communication from the grievance officer,” it said.

It further reads: “The Grievance Appeal Committee will deal with such an appeal expeditiously and will endeavor to finally settle the appeal within thirty calendar days from the date of receipt of the appeal. While dealing with the appeal, if the grievance appeal committee feels it is necessary, it may ask for assistance from any person who has the required qualification, experience and expertise in the subject matter.”

The rule added that the grievance appellate committee will adopt an online dispute resolution mechanism in which the entire appellate process, from the filing of appeal to its decision, will be conducted through digital mode. Every order passed by the Grievance Appellate Committee will be complied with by the concerned intermediary and a report in this regard will be uploaded on its website.

The Supreme Court had on August 17 granted time to the Center to inform whether it is framing any regulations to control the issue of de-platforming of users from social media.

Earlier, senior counsel for one of the social media platforms said that if such guidelines are formulated, the scope of the proceedings before the court can be navigated accordingly.

In its affidavit filed in one of the cases against the suspension of the petitioner’s Twitter account, the Center said that an individual’s liberty and freedom cannot be “laid aside or thrown away in the slipstream of social and technological progress ” and the social media platforms must respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and comply with the Constitution of India.

It said that social media platforms should not take down the account themselves or in all cases should completely suspend it and complete de-platforming is against the spirit of Articles 14 (equality before law), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India.

Claiming to be the custodian of the users’ fundamental rights in cyberspace, the government said that a social media account can be suspended or de-platformed only in cases such as in the interest of the sovereignty, security and integrity of India , friendly relations with foreign states or public order or pursuant to a court order or if the content is extremely illegal, such as sexual abuse.

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