The Indian Government blocked 1,377 social media pages from 2013-16 under the section 69A of the IT Act, reports the Economic Times. An additional 1,670 URLs on social media websites were blocked in compliance with court orders, for a total of 3,047 blocked pages.
Previously, the government had reported blocking 844 social media pages from January to November 2015, 10 in 2014, 13 in 2013 and 136 in 2012, under section 69A. Additionally, 352 URLs were blocked in compliance with court orders in India till 30th November 2015, 432 in 2014 and 533 in 2013. This indicates the government blocked 510 social media pages between November 2015 and October 2016, while court ordered blocks in the same period stood at around 353.
Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000 lets the government block online public access information in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order and preventing incitement of cognisable offences related to above. Failing to comply with the directions of the Act leads to imprisonment for up to 7 years, along with a fine.
It’s worth noting that the government treats anti-religious content the same way it would treat content falling in any of the above categories. We have pointed out before the shortcomings of the Section 69A, including the lack of transparency and accountability in the Act, and other reasons why the Act should have been changed by the Supreme Court.
Rulings on the IT Act:
The Supreme Court had ruled on a series of cases challenging the IT Act, including Section 66A (3 years in prison for offensive statements online), Section 79 and its rules (forcing intermediaries to take down online content) and Section 69 (blocking of online content), in March last year. The court had then struck down Section 66A, written down Section 79, but upheld Section 69. However, despite the ruling, over 3137 arrests were made under the defunct Section 66A in 2015, including that of 82 juveniles.