As many as 4,804 uniform resource locators (URLs) on Facebook and 4,293 on Twitter were blocked in the last five years ending 2020, official data shared by the government in Lok Sabha on March 10 show.
“Blocking is done as per the process specified in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information By Public) Rules, 2009 notified under this section,” Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State For Electronics and Information Technology said in his reply to the Parliament.“There are adequate safeguards and checks-and balances prescribed in these Rules in the form of an Inter-Ministerial Committee having members as joint secretary or equivalent to examine blocking request and to make its recommendation,” he said.
Data show that there has been a considerable increase in the number of URLs blocked on these social media platforms over the last two years compared to the previous three years.
“Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 empowers Government to block any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above,” Minister Dhotre said.
Earlier in February this year, the government had sent a notice to Twitter directing it to block 1,178 more accounts believed to be linked to the Khalistan sympathisers as well as those backed by Pakistan. Several blocking orders were served under Section 69A of the IT Act, Twitter said in its response. “Out of these, two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law,” it said.
While replying to another question in the Parliament on March 10 regarding censorship on social media, the Minister said: “Government values freedom of speech and expression, but the unlawful content relatable to Article 19(2) of the Constitution are expected to be removed/disabled as and when brought to the knowledge of intermediaries either through a court order or through a notice by appropriate government or its agency or when directed under section 69A of the IT Act, 2000 following due process of law.”The Indian government, on February 25, introduced new rules regarding the use of social media, and the regulation of streaming services. According to these rules, social media firms should not host or store, and must take down content prohibited in the context of India’s sovereignty, integrity, defamation and incitement to offence. If the content is deemed offensive by a court or government, social media firms have to pull it out within 36 hours; 24, if it is sexually offensive content.