The amendment was proposed in June. In August, social media and tech companies held discussions about creating industry-level self-regulation as an alternative to the government`s proposal, according to a Reuters report, but companies like Google have reportedly expressed concerns that an outside entity would overturn its own decisions. Germany requires social media companies to use local staff and data storage to counter hate speech. Countries like Vietnam and Pakistan are drafting laws similar to India`s. In Turkey, social media companies only fulfilled a mandate to remove radical content after being fined and their advertising revenue threatened. The new Information Technology Amendment Rules (Intermediate Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) of 2022, notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, require social media companies to submit to the authority of a “grievance committee” that the union government will put in place by January 2023. In an amendment to the country`s new Information Technology Act that came into force last year, the Indian government said anyone harmed by the appointed social media complaints officer can address the complaints committee, which will consist of a chair and two full-time members appointed by the government. (In line with IT rules, social media companies appointed grievances and other officials in India last year to hear comments and complaints from their users.) The change will take effect Friday, according to a statement. The government defended the proposed new appellate body, saying social media companies do not have such a mechanism and that there is “no credible self-regulatory mechanism.” Under the amended rules announced Friday, a government committee will be formed to hear complaints from users about decisions to moderate content on social media platforms.
This effectively gives the government control over content moderation decisions made by social media companies. The New Delhi-based internet rights group Freedom Foundation said Friday that the grievance board was “essentially a state censorship body” that would hear appeals against decisions by social media platforms whether or not to remove content, “turning bureaucrats into arbiters of our freedom of expression online.” Several companies such as Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp have not confirmed that they will comply, asking for a 6-month delay in the application of the law.  Koo, an India-based alternative to Twitter, announced that it had complied with the law, while Facebook announced its intention to comply.  On May 26, WhatsApp sued the Indian government, saying it considered the new laws “unconstitutional.”  Social media companies are already required to have an internal grievance officer and appoint executives to coordinate with law enforcement. Lawyers for Elon Musk, who owns Twitter to date, have already voiced concerns about Twitter`s lawsuit against the Indian government, saying such a move threatens the company`s third-largest market. Sweeping new laws raise concerns about freedom of expression and India`s character as an Indo-Pacific power. In February 2021, India`s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced new guidelines for social media companies, including the appointment of a compliance officer and the removal of content within 36 hours at the request of authorities, which were due to come into effect in May.  The Internet Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for digital rights, called the proposed organization “essentially a state social media censorship agency that will turn bureaucrats into arbiters of our online freedom of expression.” The foundation also expressed concern that the government will also be able to force social media platforms to post content that the platforms have deemed to be in violation of their standards.
In May 2021, when the laws came into effect, Twitter again clashed with the Modi government when the company referred to the posts of politicians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as “fake media” – the same term it applied to some of US President Donald Trump`s tweets while he was still in office. NEW DELHI, June 6 (Reuters) – India on Monday issued new rules for social media companies it had proposed, abruptly pulling out last week and making no changes, saying the law was necessary because the companies had violated Indians` constitutional rights.