Self-regulation: division among big tech companies on the way forward

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Internet companies are increasingly divided over the creation of a self-regulatory body – to handle complaints from social media users – as an alternative to the Centre’s Grievance Appeals Committee (GAC).

Snap and Google oppose an industry proposal to create such a body. They raised concerns about the potential inability to legally challenge any final content moderation decision by an autonomous body, in addition to the difference in moderation policies of different platforms, many executives aware said. of these discussions at The Indian Express.

Facebook and Twitter, however, are learned to support the creation of the body.

Social media companies, as well as the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), are currently drawing up the outlines of a self-regulatory mechanism in response to the Ministry of Electronics and Computers’ proposal ( MeitY) to set up “committees” to deal with complaints raised by users regarding the content moderation decisions of social media companies.

In proposed changes to the information technology rules, MeitY suggested creating grievance appeal committees (GACs), although the department said it was open to a self-regulatory body for businesses to social media to manage these issues.

In June, during a public consultation with stakeholders, Minister of State for Electronics and Computing Rajeev Chandrashekhar said the government will go ahead with the proposed appeal boards.

He added that if the industry were to come up with a self-regulatory mechanism that worked for the government, the department “would move on to that”. During a closed-door meeting, Google reportedly expressed reservations about the current structure of the self-regulatory body, which in a draft policy said decisions made by the body will be binding. This is where the concern of the company comes from.

“Orders made by the GAC can be challenged in court, whereas the ability to challenge a ‘binding’ order made by a self-regulatory body is much weaker,” a source said.

Another argument is that while having senior executives from all social media companies in the self-regulatory body might make it easier to reach consensus, disagreements are also likely. “Different companies have their respective content moderation guidelines. What is acceptable for one company may not be acceptable for another because their community guidelines are different. The real challenge for any self-regulatory body is therefore to achieve consensus on content moderation decisions for all platforms,” said one executive.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said, “We have had a preliminary meeting and are engaging in active discussions with industry as well as government. We are exploring all options and look forward to working with stakeholders to find the best possible solution. Facebook declined to comment. Queries sent to Twitter, Snap and IAMAI went unanswered.

A lack of consensus among social media companies could undermine its bargaining power with the government to authorize a self-regulatory body instead of its proposed GACs. Industry bodies such as the US-India Business Council and the Asia Internet Coalition, which include large US tech companies among their members, have opposed the formation of these government-appointed committees, questioning their effect on the economy. ‘independence.

Industry sources have also hinted at a “disjointed” way in which deliberations on the self-regulatory body have unfolded so far. “Many IAMAI members, including some social media companies, were unaware of the steps the body had taken to formalize the self-regulatory body. A WhatsApp group was initially created and a document circulated among group members that did not involve many IAMAI members,” said a source from another tech company.

IAMAI currently operates two self-regulatory bodies – the Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC) for online content delivery companies, and a body for edtech companies called India Edtech Consortium (IEC). Another self-regulatory body created under the umbrella of IAMAI, the Blockchain and Crypto Assets Council (BACC), which represented companies like CoinSwitch Kuber, WazirX and CoinDCX, was disbanded last month due to uncertainty. regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies.

Senior government officials have said MeitY should move forward with GACs in the final version of IT rule changes, as it believes a self-regulatory body may not include all businesses and could end up by “prioritizing” a few of the biggest social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google.

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