India sets up govt panel to hear social media content moderation complaints

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) -The Indian government on Friday announced amendments to its information technology (IT) rules that will apply to social media companies, in a move likely to be seen as a reining in of big tech firms.

Under the amended rules, which will come into effect from Oct. 28, a government panel would be formed to hear complaints from users about content moderation decisions of social media platforms.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has had strained relations with many big tech companies, and New Delhi has been tightening regulation of firms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Tension over social media content decisions has been a particularly thorny issue in India with companies often receiving takedown requests from the government or removing content proactively.

Social media firms are already required to have an in-house grievance redress officer and designate executives to co-ordinate with law enforcement officials.

Under the amended rules, the companies would be required to acknowledge complaints from users within 24 hours and resolve them within 15 days or 72 hours in case of an information takedown request.

In June, the government had issued draft changes to the IT law that would require companies to "respect the rights accorded to the citizens under the constitution of India" and proposed setting up a government panel.

India's government is concerned that users upset with decisions to have their content taken down do not have a proper system to appeal against those decisions and that their only legal recourse is to go to court.

"A number of (technology) Intermediaries have acted in violation of constitutional rights of Indian citizens," the government had said in June, without naming any company or specific rights.

The government panel will comprise a chairperson and two full time members, of which two will be independent members.

(Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean)