Content moderation through co-regulation

Source: The post is based on an article “Content moderation through co-regulation” published in The Hindu on 9th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2- Governance

Relevance: need for co-regulation intermediary law

News: The article discusses the amendment made in the IT Rules, 2021 and the need for the co-regulatory intermediary law.

What does Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandate and what is the recent amendment made?

IT Rules, 2021 mandate platforms to establish a grievance redressal mechanism to resolve user complaints within fixed timelines.

The government recently amended the rules and established Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs). This will act as appeals over the platforms’ grievance redressal decisions.

This shows that the government has tightened the rules for online speech resembling Section 69A of the IT Act.

Section 69A of the IT Act provides the government with the power to issue directions for blocking public access to any information through any computer resource.

However, it will be difficult for the government to control the online speech as users have increased along with the increase in illegal and harmful content. Therefore, there is a need for the intermediary law that works on co-regulation.

What is an intermediary law and what kind of intermediary law is needed?

An intermediary law is where the government orders intermediaries to remove the content that does not comply with the law.

There is need for an intermediary law that empowers online platform for the moderation of the social media content under broad government guidelines. For example, the Digital Services Act (DSA) of the European Union (EU).

Therefore, coming up with co-regulatory intermediary law is important.

What purpose can be served by co-regulatory intermediary law?

First, it will help platforms to retain some amount of autonomy over their terms of service.

  • It will give flexibility to the online platform to come up with evolving standards for harmful content. This will promote free online speech without the need of private censorship.

Second, co-regulation aligns government and platform interests.  For example, platforms took measures to tackle disinformation during the pandemic which also helped the government.

Third, co-regulatory mechanisms allows the state to outsource content regulation to platforms which are better at tackling modern content moderation challenges.

What is the way ahead?

First, online platforms must follow due process and be fair to the user while removing content or redressing user grievances.

Second, co-regulation should give autonomy along with making online platforms accountable. Accountability can be increased through algorithmic transparency as platform often use tools to hide sensitive contents from being challenged.

Fourth, GAC should be removed because they concentrate censorship powers in the hands of the government.

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