A self-regulatory body which social media companies such as Meta, Twitter and Google are currently putting together, to address complaints raised by users about the platforms’ content-moderation decisions, could be formulated with participation between the industry and government, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar told The Sunday Express.
He also said that the self-regulatory body cannot be “dominated by the Big Tech”, and should have equal representation from smaller start-ups.
Social media companies, along with industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), are currently chalking up the contours of a self-regulatory mechanism in response to the Ministry of Electronics and IT’s (MeitY’s) proposal to set up ‘government appellate committees’ (GACs) to address grievances raised by users. In proposed amendments to the Information Technology Rules, MeitY has suggested setting up these committees, even as it said it is open to a self-regulatory body of social media companies to handle such issues.
“The government is open to any type of institutional mechanism including a self-regulatory organisation which could be a partnership between the industry and the government,” Chandrasekhar told this paper.
According to an initial draft of the self-governing body’s composition, it includes a senior retired judge from either the Supreme Court or other high courts, and executives of social media companies, among other people. “Whether there should be government representation as a bureaucrat or other individuals representing various stakeholders including the government is a matter of finer details. The government representative could also be a non-government person but someone who represents the government’s view on the policy outcomes expected of the self-regulatory organisation,” the MoS IT added.
The Indian Express reported earlier that there is a growing divide in internet companies on setting up the self-regulatory body, with firms like Google and Snap expressing reservations over the potential inability to legally challenge any final content moderation decisions of a self-governing body, in addition to the difference in the content moderation policies of different platforms. Apart from that, there are concerns within the industry that a self-regulatory body could end up largely focusing on big social media companies who have more bargaining power, compared to smaller firms.
Asked about these concerns, Chandrasekhar said, “We are discouraging the industry and the self-regulatory body to be dominated by Big Tech companies. We would not consider it prudent if industry organisations or the self-regulatory body are dominated by the bigger firms,” adding that the government would look for diversity in the self-governing body.
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He said, “We would like to see a diversity, smaller Indian and foreign start-ups equally and visibly represented, and policies made with their inputs as well. While assessing the feasibility of any such self-regulatory body, we will 100 per cent take these facts into consideration.
“We want the ecosystem to be extremely diverse going forward, with both Indian and foreign start-ups participating in it. I have said this before that the time of dominance of all these Big Tech companies is nearing an end. The future of the internet is not going to be driven by these old companies but by new innovators. So we want them to be represented and their voices to be heard.”
The minister reiterated that legislations related to the internet ecosystem are currently evolving and the government could “move to” a self-regulatory body at a later date even if it goes ahead with its proposed GACs.