The government has notified the formation of three grievances appellate committees (GACs) to address users’ complaints against social media and other internet-based platforms. The GACs have been established based on the recently amended Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, and have been constituted with three members each.
According to a recent notification, each of the three GACs will have a chairperson, two whole-time members from different government entities and retired senior executives from the industry for a term of three years from the date of assumption of office. The first panel will be chaired by the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Ashutosh Shukla and Sunil Soni, former chief general manager and chief information officer of Punjab National Bank, have been appointed as the whole-time members of the panel. The second panel will be chaired by the joint secretary in charge of the Policy and Administration Division in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Indian Navy’s retired Commodore Sunil Kumar Gupta and Kavindra Sharma, former vice-president (consulting), L&T Infotech, have been appointed as the whole-time members of this panel. The third panel will be chaired by Kavita Bhatia, senior scientist at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). Sanjay Goel, former traffic service officer of the Indian Railways, and Krishnagiri Ragothamarao, former managing director and CEO of IDBI Intech, have been appointed as the whole-time members of the third panel.
According to the government, the objective of establishing the GACs is to settle the issues that users may have against the manner in which social media platforms initially addressed their complaints regarding content and other matters.
The GAC will be a virtual digital platform that will operate only online and digitally, wherein the entire appeal process, from the filing of appeal to the decision thereof, shall be conducted digitally. Users will have the option to appeal against decision of the grievance officer of the social media intermediaries and other online intermediaries before this new appellate body. The committee will endeavour to address the user’s appeal within a period of 30 days.
The online platform will be operational from March 1, 2023. Periodic reviews of GACs and reporting and disclosures of GAC orders will also be part of the process.