Except for a slide in 2018, the number of Twitter URLs being blocked on the Narendra Modi government’s directions has seen a consistent rise since 2014, according to by the union ministry of electronics and information technology in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The social media company recently seeking to overturn some Indian government orders to take down content in a legal challenge which alleges abuse of power by officials. Twitter has often taken down content in India after being asked to do so by the Indian government. In June, tweets from a US-based human rights watchdog on declining internet freedom were in India.
The ministry shared the data on Wednesday in response to an unstarred question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi. The MP had sought year-wise details of government requests to suspend or reduce the visibility of Twitter accounts and the reasons behind such directions since 2014.
From eight in 2014, the number of blocked URLs rose to 15 in 2015, 194 in 2016, and 588 in 2017, before sliding to 225 in 2018. But this again saw a surge in the following years, with the highest number of URLs being blocked in 2020 and 2021 – the post-pandemic years as well as those marking the Delhi violence and long-sustained agitations such as those against the controversial citizenship law and the contentious farm laws. In 2019, 1,041 URLs were blocked, and this number rose to 2,731 in 2020 and 2,851 in 2021.
The government has blocked 1,122 Twitter URLs until June this year.
“Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 empowers Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to block information 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 cognisable offence relating to above. For blocking of information, MeitY follows the due process as specified in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009,” the ministry said.
“In line with the objective of the government to ensure an open, safe and trusted and accountable internet for all its users, MeitY issued directions…to block URLs including accounts under provision of section 69A of the IT Act, 2000. MeitY does not maintain data regarding period of existence of accounts that were suspended by Twitter.”
During the second wave of Covid last April, on the government's request. While the government claimed the tweets were spreading "fake news", most of the tweets had been critical of the government's handling of the pandemic.
During the farmer protests, Twitter blocked multiple tweets and handles in response to an order issued by the central government. Approximately were asked to be deactivated.
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