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Two people arrested in Madhya Pradesh for sharing content online


Two youths Shakir Yunus Banthia and Vasim Shaikh have been arrested in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh for sharing a morphed image of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on WhatsApp and Facebook, reports Indian Express. Banthia and Shaikh were arrested on a complaint of the image of combining Bhagwat’s torso with a woman’s body clad in brown pants (which is the RSS’ uniform and recently underwent a change).

The report states that the morphed image was allegedly sought to make fun of the uniform change and booked the two youths under sections 67 of the Information Technology Act and 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code, who are in judicial custody till March 30. The complaint was filed by Rajnish Nimbalkar citing that the image had hurt the sentiments of Hindus.

HT reported that the arrest was also based on posting obscene material electronically. The Indian Express report cites MP Varma, the head of the Gogawa police station as saying that Banthia had only shared the image, he was neither the creator of it, nor the admin of the WhatsApp group.

WhatsApp admin arrested: Readers would remember that 6 months ago, an administrator of a WhatsApp group along with three others had been arrested in Latur district in Maharashtra over objectionable content of videos of cow slaughtering and criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Section 66A struck down: Exactly a year ago, the Supreme Court ruled on a series of cases challenging the IT Act striking down Section 66A for being unconstitutional, upholding Section 69 in its entirety, which allows the government to block websites, and also upholding Section 79 and its rules, saying that it needs to be read down, and a court order or a government order needs to be taken. An intermediary needs a court order or a government order for getting content taken down.

Related reads:
– Dear Thane cops, didn’t you hear Section 66A is dead?
– Arrests over “objectionable content” on Facebook back despite Sec 66A being scrapped
– Section 66A may be back again, with a different name and packaging

Government developments with respect to blocking:
– In December, the government blocked 844 social media pages from January to November 2015. Out of 844, 492 web pages were blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

– Last month, we reported that the Indian government planned to set up a media cell which would track content online, and ‘counter’ news and comments which are negative or provocative in its opinion. The proposal would monitor and analyse blogs, web portals of TV channels and newspapers and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube etc.

1 out of 6 people use WhatsApp: WhatsApp recently crossed 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs), Jan Koum, cofounder and CEO of WhatsApp announced, adding that 42 billion messages were sent daily, along with 1.6 billion photos and 250 million videos. WhatsApp also has 1 billion groups on it.

Other arrests due to digital content sharing

– In August 2015, two youths were arrested by police in Chhattisgarh for allegedly posting an inappropriate video of Mahatma Gandhi.

– An admin of a WhatsApp group in Nagpur was arrested in June 2015 for hurting religious sentiments.

– Facebook had blocked and then unblocked the Facebook page Indian Atheists the page without providing a reason for it.

Also read:

A list of Section 66A arrests in India through the years
Delhi Police to use predictive policing in partnership with ISRO
Government blocks Jihadology, an academic site on source material from Jihadis

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