In a response in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, PP Chaudhary, said that in 2017, till June, as many as 735 social media URLs and 596 websites had been blocked. This list came out before Archive.org was blocked in India.
These blocks have been based on court orders as well as “recommendations of an expert committee for blocking URLs/websites”. The instances blocked included “social media networking groups and websites engaged in flaring up anti India sentiments.” Of course, that may not be the only reason. There is no additional information given, nor is there information on how many sites have been blocked over the past few years. But, here’s what we have:
2012: 708 blocked, 4 unblocked
2013: 1349 blocked, 0 unblocked
2014: 2341 blocked, 32 unblocked
2015 (Jan to March): 143 blocked based on court orders
2017 (till June): 735 social media URLs and 596 websites
Of course, what is evident here is that the disclosure of information and how it is classified varies, which makes it difficult to get any sense of a trend, post 2014. For example, we don’t know how many URLs were blocked in 2015 which weren’t based on court orders. Or, in 2017, how many non-social media URLs were blocked, and does the government include those 596 websites in the 735 social media URLs? Remember that we’ve seen parliamentarians refer to the Internet as social media.
We had filed an RTI for data for names of websites that were blocked which aren’t covered by National Security, and not restricted under the RTI act. For example, blocks related to Court Orders should be public information. This information was denied to us by the government. We’re going to file fresh RTIs.