September 29, 2022
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Google has serious qualms about establishing a self-regulatory organization for the Indian social media sector to hear user complaints, even if the proposal has the support of Facebook and Twitter, according to reports quoting information from people familiar with the discussions.

India proposed in June establishing a government panel to hear user complaints about content moderation decisions but has also stated that it is open to the notion of a self-regulatory organization if the industry is willing.

The lack of agreement among the digital titans, however, raises the chance of a government panel being formed, which Meta Platforms Inc’s (META.O) Facebook and Twitter are anxious to avoid due to concerns about government and regulatory overreach in India, according to sources.

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An executive from Alphabet Inc’s Google told other guests at a closed-door meeting this week that the business was unconvinced about the benefits of a self-regulatory body. According to the executive, the body would involve external assessments of decisions that may force Google to reinstall information even if it violated Google’s own policy.

Such directions from a self-regulatory organization, according to the sources, could set a dangerous precedent.

Representatives from Snap Inc and popular Indian social media company ShareChat joined Facebook, Twitter, and Google for the conference. In India, the companies have hundreds of millions of users.

According to the sources, Snap and ShareChat are also concerned about a self-regulatory system, claiming that it requires considerably more input, including from civil society.

Google stated in a statement that it has attended a preliminary discussion and is working with the industry and the government to find the “best possible solution.”

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Although there have been instances of cooperation, self-regulatory entities to control material in the social media sector are unusual. Big IT companies in New Zealand have signed a code of conduct aimed at eliminating dangerous information online.

Tensions over social media content selections have been especially vexing in India. Takedown demands from the government are common, and social media companies frequently delete content proactively.

Google’s YouTube, for example, banned 1.2 million videos that violated its criteria in the first quarter of this year, the most of any country in the world.

The Indian government is worried that users who disagree with decisions to remove their content lack an appropriate method to appeal those decisions and that their only legal recourse is to go to court.

Twitter has experienced controversy after blocking the accounts of notable Indians, including politicians, citing policy violations. Twitter also clashed with the Indian government last year when it refused to completely comply with instructions to remove accounts that the government claimed promoted misinformation.

According to an early draught of the plan for the self-regulatory body, the panel would be chaired by a retired judge or an experienced person in the field of technology, along with six other individuals, including some senior executives at social media businesses.

According to the sources, the panel’s rulings would be “binding in nature.”

Western tech titans have been at conflict with the Indian government for years, claiming that stringent laws are harming their business and investment plans. Trade ties between New Delhi and Washington have also been strained as a result of the conflicts.

A government-appointed review panel, according to US business advocacy groups representing the IT titans, raises concerns about how it could work independently if New Delhi controls who sits on it.

The government panel recommendation was out for public comment until early July. There is no specified date for implementation.

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