In a bid to empower social media users, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, launched the ‘Grievance Appellate Committee’ (GAC) that will look into their concerns regarding content and other issues. Earlier, in January 2023, Chandrasekhar notified to establish three GACs as required under the recently amended IT Rules, 2021. The GAC will be a virtual digital platform that will operate only online and digitally — wherein the entire appeal process, from filing of appeal to the decision thereof, shall be conducted digitally.

The move is to make sure that the internet remains open and safe for users in the country. The newly-formed panel, a move to strengthen the country’s digital laws, will look into appeals by users against decisions of social media platforms. Under the IT Rules, social media intermediaries like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp are already required to have a Grievance Officer to whom users may complain about any violation of the rules.

The GACs will function as a traffic signpost on the internet. Every GAC will comprise of three members. The need for such panels arose due to large numbers of grievances being left unaddressed or unsatisfactorily addressed by internet intermediaries. The GACs are expected to create a culture of responsiveness among all internet platforms and intermediaries towards their consumers. Users will have the option to appeal against the decision of the grievance officer of the social media intermediaries and other online intermediaries before this new appellate body.

Besides, the committee will endeavour to address the users’ appeal within a stipulated period of 30 days. The GAC is a critical piece of overall policy and legal framework to ensure that the internet in India is open, safe, trusted and accountable.