According to industry sources, the government is considering three grievance appellate committees (GACs) to look into complaints by users against decisions of social media platforms. To this, end, consultations on various modalities of the panels is expected to start in January 2023. These panels will be able to review content moderation decisions by social media companies and can overrule decisions of the big tech firms on takedown or blocking requests.

As per sources, the aforementioned grievance appellate panels will be assigned different types of appeals based on the categories of harmful content mentioned in the recently amended IT rules. Broadly, these appeals could be around complaints regarding sexually explicit content, misinformation, or religious incitement.

The government has, in the new rules, added objectionable religious content (with intent to incite violence) alongside pornography, trademark infringements, fake information or something that could be a threat to sovereignty of the nation, as content that users can flag to social media platforms. Social media platforms’ decisions on such complaints can be challenged in the grievance committees. Such appeals pertaining to areas other than those listed out in the amended IT rules will be directed to the relevant authority or tribunal. In such cases, the GACs will act as a signpost, redirecting the complaints to the authority and tribunal concerned, while informing the complainant that their grievance has been forwarded to the relevant agency. Further, the structure of the grievance appellate committees, design and functions, and the process to deal with such nuances will be placed for stakeholders’ consultation by early January 2023.

The latest move will arm the users with a grievance appeal mechanism in the form of appellate committees that will look into complaints filed by individuals against decisions of grievance officers of social media platforms. Notably, the newly-amended IT rules also impose a legal obligation on social media companies to take all out efforts to prevent barred content and misinformation.