Content and account blocking orders issued to Twitter by the Center in the first six months of 2022 exceeded the number of such orders issued to the social media platform in all of 2019. According to data shared by Minister of State for Electronics and Computing Rajeev Chandrashekhar with the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, 1,122 blocking orders were issued to Twitter through June 2022, compared to 1,041 such orders in all of 2019.
In 2021, Twitter received 2,851 blocking orders under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act 2000, the highest of all years, data shared by Chandrashekhar revealed. This coincides with the microblogging platform blocking more than 250 accounts linked to sharing ‘provocative’ tweets about the then-ongoing farmer protests and the company receiving government orders to remove some tweets criticizing the handling of Covid-19. 19 by the government.
Notably, 2021 was also the year a Delhi Police Special Cell team knocked on the doors of Twitter’s India offices in Delhi and Gurgaon to ostensibly serve the social media platform a notice after the platform flagged some posts from ruling party leaders alleging a conspiracy by Congress to brand the prime minister and central government as “manipulated media.”
Section 69(A) of the Computers Act 2000 authorizes the Center to issue blocking orders to social media intermediaries “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the defense of the ‘India, state security, friendly relations with foreign states or order or to prevent incitement to commit any related offenses relating to the foregoing’.
Under the rules that govern these freeze orders, any freeze request made by the government is then sent to a review committee, which then issues final instructions.
Data shared with Parliament also revealed that since at least 2016, blocking orders issued to Twitter account for a significant share of total blocking orders issued to social media platforms every year, with the exception of 2018. For example , in a response to Lok Sabha in December last year, Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that in 2016 the government had issued a total of 633 orders blocking under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act. In the same year, according to data presented by Chandrashekhar on Wednesday, Twitter received 194 blocking orders, meaning it accounted for more than 30% of all blocking orders issued that year.
Similarly, in 2017, the government issued a total of 1,385 blocking orders, including 588 to Twitter, representing over 42% of all blocking orders. Certainly, total blocking orders could be issued to various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as website blocking orders issued to various telecommunications service providers (TSPs).
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In 2018, censorship orders against Twitter took a downward turn, accounting for just 8% of the 2,799 blocking orders issued that year. In 2019, Twitter accounted for over 28% of the total 3,635 block orders, and in 2020 it received over 27% of the total 9,849 block orders.
Between February 2021 and 2022, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) reportedly ordered Twitter to remove more than 1,400 accounts and 175 tweets under Section 69(A) of the Law of 2000 on information technology. Twitter moved the Karnataka High Court, seeking to overturn blocking orders on 39 of those links reported by the ministry, according to the petition filed by the social media giant earlier this month.
Incidentally, between 2014 and 2020, the number of content blocking orders issued to various social media companies and TSPs by the government also increased by almost 2,000% – from 471 in 2014 to 9,849 in 2020, highlighting the growing trend of online censorship in India. .