India revamps internet rules to allow social media appeals


India is revamping its internet rules to include an appeals panel for social media grievances.

The federal Technology Ministry last year announced intermediary guidelines to push social media companies to take down controversial content and to help with legal probes. New Delhi’s move aligned with those by other countries looking to exercise greater control over big US internet companies. It also increased compliance headaches for the likes of Meta Platforms Inc. and Twitter Inc., which count India among their key growth markets.

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The 2021 rules, which are legally enforceable, directed the tech companies to appoint grievance officers to resolve user complaints. The penalty for non-compliance included the lapse of protections given to intermediaries or content hosts and jail terms.

Under the amended rules, released on Friday, the federal government will set up one or more grievance appellate committees comprised of a chairperson and two full-time members. The committee will aim to resolve an appeal within 30 calendar days, and an intermediary must comply with its order, according to the rules.

The new rules have been introduced as intermediaries or content hosts such as social media firms did not do enough to address user complaints, junior technology minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar told a news conference. “Redressal officer is supposed to address grievances not have some tokenism there.”

The changes come as billionaire Elon Musk takes control of Twitter, appointing himself head of the company and vowing to ensure free speech on the platform.

India has had an especially contentious relationship with Twitter over the past few years as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has sought to gain greater control over online dialogue.

The prospect of less restrictive content moderation under Musk’s leadership has prompted concerns that dialogue on the social network will deteriorate, eroding years of efforts by the company and its trust and safety team to limit offensive or dangerous posts.

Read more: India warns US social media firms after row over content regulation with Twitter


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