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New IT rules | Provision allowing interim blocking of internet content exists since 2009, clarifies Centre

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has clarified that the government has not introduced a new provision in new IT rules. The state is allowed to block internet content in emergency cases since 2009.

February 27, 2021 / 06:54 PM IST
The clarification was issued after a row over the new regulatory measures for over the top (OTT) platforms and digital media firms.

The clarification was issued after a row over the new regulatory measures for over the top (OTT) platforms and digital media firms.

The provision allowing the government to block internet content under emergency cases has existed since 2009, the government said on February 27.

The clarification was issued after a row over the new regulatory measures for over the top (OTT) platforms and digital media firms.

Critics of the new rules alleged a violation of freedom of expression, claiming that the government will hinder the free usage of internet by reserving the right to block content.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, however, clarified that the government has not introduced a new provision. The state is allowed to block internet content in emergency cases since 2009.

"It is to inform that this provision is exactly the same as being exercised by the Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) since the past eleven years under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009," it said in a statement.

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The government had, on February 25, unveiled the "Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021" to provide an institutional framework for news publishers and OTT platforms.

Critics had raised concern over Rule 16 under Part III of the rules, which mentions that in a case of emergency nature, interim blocking directions may be issued by the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The I&B Ministry has pointed that under the 2009 rules, the same authority was granted to the Secretary, MeITY.

"Since Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, would be administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, that is why the reference to Secretary MeITY has been replaced by Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. There is no new provision which has been made," the statement noted.
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