The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has proposed amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. With an aim to increase platform accountability, the proposed amendments focus heavily on stemming the virality of harmful content.
We believe that the proposed amendments are a timely recognition of the unique harms associated with the spread of hateful, abusive, and violent content on social media. One of the most important findings from our research on online gender-based violence on social media platforms is that the principal issue is not necessarily the harmful content itself, but the ways in which the affordances of amplification are exploited to make such content spread virally. Social media platforms play an active and interventionist role in the way public discourse takes shape, and their scope of liability must be commensurate with this immensely consequential responsibility. In this context, in our input, we make specific recommendations to MeitY with the intent to develop a clear legal basis for platform accountability and their business models of algorithmic virality.
Similarly, another focus area of these proposed amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 is an increased emphasis on grievance redressal, and the formation of a Grievance Appellate Committee. Again, we commend this much-needed move to make social media platforms more responsive to user grievances. As the first port of call for aggrieved users, platforms must provide robust, responsive, and expeditious grievance redressal. Once again, when it comes to specifics, we recommend that the law provide a greater degree of clarity, especially regarding the constitution and functioning of the Grievance Appellate Committee.
To reiterate, we support and commend the adoption of the principles of platform accountability as stated in the press note accompanying the text of the proposed amendments to the IT Rules, 2021. However, we believe there are some practical considerations to be borne in mind to ensure that these principles are anchored in the text of the law.