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Google is not sold on self-regulatory body in India plan

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US-based technology behemoth Google has expressed reservations about the structure, composition and functionality of a self-regulated grievance appellate committee (GAC) proposed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), social media platform Meta Inc and microblogging site Twitter, people in the know told ET.

The three companies, as well as the consumer internet industry association IAMAI, have held a few preliminary meetings over the last few days to discuss the basic structure and proposed composition of the self-regulated GAC, the sources said.

While Meta and Twitter supported IAMAI’s proposals, Google executives contended that a self-regulated GAC could force companies to change their internal policies on how they regulate content on their platforms, one person said.

The social media intermediaries as well as IAMAI have approached the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, seeking more time to put in place the self-regulated GAC, another person said.

Twitter did not respond to ET’s queries, and a spokesperson for Meta said the company had no inputs to share.

In its response, a Google spokesperson said the company had held a preliminary meeting and was engaged in active discussions with the industry as well as government officials.

“We are exploring all options and look forward to working with stakeholders to find the best possible solution,” the spokesperson added.

ET was the first to report on July 27 that the three social media intermediaries were in the process of drawing up a structure for a self-regulatory body to handle appeals by social media users in India over content and takedown issues.

As per the discussions that had taken place between the three intermediaries and IAMAI, the proposal was for a self-regulated GAC headed by either a retired chief justice or a judge of the Supreme Court or one of the high courts.

Other members of the panel were to be from the industry, independent technology policy experts and one or two members appointed by the government.

The idea of a self-regulated GAC was proposed after the government said it would be open to an industry-regulated body provided such an association followed all the rules and norms laid down by it.

ET reported on July 23 that the government had, in order to retain the independence of the GAC, proposed to appoint only one or two members to the panel who would mainly act as a liaison with the industry.

While the government has not yet finalised the structure of the proposed GAC, a senior official had told ET at the time that apart from the government-appointed member, the panel would have other eminent members and independent experts from the technology and policy domain.

It was, however, unlikely that “any executives from social media intermediaries or internet companies” would be included “on the board of the appellate body,” the official had said.

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