India tightens grip on social media

The Indian government will create a three-person grievance redressal committee to veto moderation decisions made by social media platforms, according to legal changes adopted on Friday. The panel, which will be set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), will effectively have the final say on social media content.

The changes were first made public earlier this year and received widespread pushback from tech companies and public policy activists. MeitY had then defended its position, citing concern that social media platforms were violating user rights.

“A number of (technology) Intermediaries have acted in violation of constitutional rights of Indian citizens,” the ministry said, without providing details. The same amendments have now been notified, turning it into law.

Row with social media giants

Under the modified rules, social media firms will be required to acknowledge complaints from users within a day and resolve them within two weeks, although a special 72-hour deadline would be imposed in case of an information takedown request. This is the latest move in the long-running push by the government to gain control over social media firms such as Meta and Twitter, as Indian authorities continue to clash with big tech companies.

The IT Rules, which came into effect in 2021, requires social media platforms with more than 5 million users to locate the source of a post if required by local authorities — a tool that activists fear can lead to surveillance. The government is currently fighting a case in the Delhi High Court where WhatsApp had filed a lawsuit to block this traceability clause….