Surge in GAC orders to social media companies in India highlights transparency concerns

While Meta’s transparency report disclosed the number of GAC orders received by Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the nature of these orders remains undisclosed, leaving digital rights advocates concerned.

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In July 2023, the Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) in India issued over triple the number of orders to social media companies compared to June 2023. Meta’s transparency report revealed that Facebook and Instagram received eight GAC orders, while WhatsApp received five.

The GAC, established per an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, acts as a regulating body for users dissatisfied with a social media platform’s grievance officer’s resolution. However, specific details about the nature of these GAC orders remain undisclosed despite calls for transparency from digital rights groups. The GAC’s decisions are binding on platforms, and non-compliance can result in the loss of safe harbor protections.

Why does it matter?

The lack of transparency regarding the nature of GAC orders raises concerns about accountability in content moderation decisions, potentially eroding user trust. Given the significant authority vested in the GAC and its direct impact on user rights, it becomes crucial to establish mechanisms for oversight to guarantee that these decisions are made impartially and in alignment with relevant regulations.