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Google received 6 GAC orders between March and September 2023: Transparency report

While the orders upheld the original decision by Google, the report provides a break-up of the services for which the GAC issued its orders.

What’s the news: Google received 6 orders from the Grievances Appellate Committee of India after it went through at least 12 user appeals from March 1, 2023 to September 30, 2023. According to the company’s transparency report, the GAC addressed appeals related to Google’s YouTube, Gmail, Google Play, and Google Store services. As MediaNama has mentioned previously, there is no detailed information regarding these orders other than the time of issuance and the volume of orders sent out per month. Now, this report provides some insight on what kind of services a GAC order is sent out for.

What is a GAC?  GACs were created following an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, to act as the final entity users can approach for grievance redressal. A user can approach a GAC if they are not satisfied with how an intermediary responded to their grievance. As per the government website, three GACs were established by the Indian government. The orders sent by these GACs are binding on the platforms, who wish to retain their safe harbor protections.

Upon receipt of an appeal, the concerned GAC either admits or declines to admit the appeal. For example, the appeal may not be admitted because the user failed to file an initial complaint by the concerned platform, etc. If the appeal is admitted then the GAC reviews the platform’s decision and either upholds or overturns the same.

GAC dismissed half the user appeals reported: Google’s report outlines the number of user appeals received by Google from the GAC, the Google service associated with each appeal and the outcome of each appeal to the extent decided.

“During the reporting period, the GAC received and closed 12 appeals relating to Google services (see breakdown of appeals, by service and outcome, in the table below). The GAC upheld Google’s original decision for six of these appeals, rejecting the appeals. Six appeals were not admitted by the GAC and therefore no action was required by Google,” said the report.

How come MeitY does not have copies of GAC orders?

On January 5, 2024, MediaNama wrote an RTI application asking the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to “provide copies of all GAC orders sent by the GAC to WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram from March 2023 to January 5, 2024.”

What they said: On February 21, the government replied, “No information is available in records.”

Why it matters: The GAC was created following an amendment to the IT Rules, 2021, to act as the final entity users can approach for grievance redressal. Its orders are binding on the platforms, who wish to retain their safe harbor protections. So considering that these orders cannot be appealed against or revised under the country’s platform regulation rules, why doesn’t MeitY maintain a record of the orders it has sent to platforms? And if it does, why is it unwilling to share copies of these orders? It may be noted that even digital rights groups like the Internet Freedom Foundation and The Dialogue have previously asked the government for public disclosure of the orders. However, the government is yet to elaborate on the GAC’s procedures and periodic reviews.

To learn more about MediaNama’s unanswered questions, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, among other specialised newsletters, here.

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Written By

I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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