Thursday, Jun 01, 2023

Explained: What Are Govt-appointed GACs That Will Address Grievances Of Social Media Users

Explained: What Are Govt-appointed GACs That Will Address Grievances Of Social Media Users

While the Centre notified the formation of the GACs late on Friday, we look at the composition of the committees and their roles in addressing the grievances of social media users.

Use of social media.
Children in the age of social media. Shutterstock

The Centre has set three grievance appellate committees (GACs) to record complaints of internet users against the decisions of grievance redressal officers of social media platforms.

The Centre on Friday notified three GACs under an amendment to IT Rules 2021 notified in October.
"Keeping in view of the transition period required for the intermediaries as per their requests and technical requirement, the online platform will be operational in one month of this notification of the Grievance Appellate Committee, i.e. from 1st March 2023," an official statement said.

While the Centre notified the formation of the GACs late on Friday, we look at the composition of the committees and their roles. 

What are GACs?

"The GAC is a critical piece of overall policy and legal framework to ensure that the Internet in India is open, safe and trusted and accountable. The need for GAC was created due to large numbers of grievances being left unaddressed or unsatisfactorily addressed by Internet Intermediaries. GAC is expected to create a culture of responsiveness amongst all Internet Platforms and Intermediaries towards their consumers," the statement said.

The GAC will be a virtual digital platform that will operate only online and digitally -- wherein the entire process, from filing of appeal to the decision thereof, will be conducted digitally.

GACs' composition

A report by India Express states that according to the notification, each of the GACs will be led by a chairperson and it will have two whole-time members from different government entities, and retired senior executives from the industry for upto a term of three years from the date of assuming office.  

Among the three panels, the first will be led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Indian Cyber Coordination Centre (ICCC) of the Ministry of Homa Affairs. It would further constitute retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Ashutosh Shukla, while Punjab National Bank’s (PNB) former chief general manager and chief information officer Sunil Soni as the whole-time members of the panel.

The joint secretary in charge of the Policy and Administration Division in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will chair the second panel that will further have Indian Navy’s retired Commodore Sunil Kumar Gupta, and Kavindra Sharma, the former vice-president (consulting) of L&T Infotech as whole-time members for three years. 

The third panel, led by Kavita Bhatia, a senior scientist at the Ministry of Electronics and IT has Sanjay Goel, a retired Indian Railways Traffic Service officer and Krishnagiri Ragothamarao Murali Mohan, the former managing director and CEO of IDBI Intech.

What are the roles of the GACs?

The GACs will primarily oversee and rebuke content-moderation regulations given by the redressal panels of the social media giants. 

In case, a user is dissatisfied with the redressal committees of respective social media platforms, they can approach the government-appointed GAC panels. 

 The GACs will adopt an “online dispute resolution mechanism” where the entire appeal process, from its filing to the final decision, will be done online. It can also consult with people with expertise in the field during the process.

Social media companies will also have to compile every order passed by the GACs and report them on their respective websites.

Further, the social media users have to file their appeals within 30 days of receiving an ‘unsatisfied’ response from the social media’s redressal teams. The GAC will have to deal with the appeal and resolve it within a month of the receipt of the appeal.

Need of the panels

Amid criticism against the government’s involvement in the appeal processes of social media redressal, the Centre in October, last year, had notified the composition of three GACs. It also proposed independent redressal bodies opened by social media platforms given the functioning of the same was evaluated to be satisfactory by the government.

In the amendment to the IT Rules of 2021, the government had introduced the concept of GACs to hear complaints of social media users against the decisions of grievance redressal officers of the intermediaries.

Earlier this year, the IT ministry had invited applications for the post of chairperson as well as whole-time members of the GAC. It was then that the Centre had mentioned that the members must have adequate knowledge in addressing redressal for online platforms and online intermediaries. 

The IT ministry has decided to go ahead with a centrally appointed GAC despite concerted opposition from social media intermediaries and policy advocacy groups, which have raised doubts about the independence of a government-appointed body, reports Economic Times. 

"The government looks at the internet through the prism of keeping it safe and accountable for 120 crore digital nagriks (digital citizens). Safe and trusted internet is an integral part of the trillion dollar digital economy goal," the government had said.