Several digital rights groups have requested the disclosure of the orders made by the government-appointed grievance appellate committees (GACs) under new social media rules.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said that periodic reviews of GACs and reporting and disclosures of GAC orders will be part of the process, but the government has not yet made the orders public.
Since becoming operational, the GACs have received 42 appeals, with 24 being disposed of. According to Kazim Rizvi, founder of public policy think tank The Dialogue, it is crucial to understand the nature of the appeals, the category of the grievances, and the time taken for redressal. Such information will bring more transparency in the grievance redressal process and the functioning of GAC, Rizvi added.
Rahul Sharma, director of advisory firm Grade Ace, also emphasized the need for more transparency and disclosure in the system, suggesting that GACs provide a redacted version for public consumption or bring out a monthly report analyzing and summarizing the orders.
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) wrote to the chairpersons of the three GACs earlier this month, requesting to release the process and details of periodic reviews and details of all intermediaries under the Information Technology Act, 2000, against which platforms users have filed appeals.
The three GACs were launched in late February, mandated under amendments brought in by the government in IT Rules, 2021, to address users’ complaints against social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The GACs function as a faceless dispute resolution mechanism that would make digital platforms accountable to ‘Digital Nagriks’, according to MeitY.
Social media users who are dissatisfied with the actions of the grievance officers of these platforms can take their complaints to the GACs instead of going to courts against the decision of such platforms. The disclosure of GAC orders and reviews will help ensure the efficiency and transparency of the committees, encouraging more users to report grievances if they are unsatisfied with the platforms’ decisions.