MeitY has informed the parliament that 2,388 URLs were blocked this year under Section 69A of the IT Act. The total number of websites and webpages blocked have gone up by four times in the last four years.

URLs blocked
2015: 587 blocked
2016: 964 blocked
2017: 1,329 blocked
2018: 2,388 blocked

This was in response to questions by Janardan Singh Sigriwal, a BJP MP from Bihar’s Maharajganj. He asked MeitY if “the government has directed any social networking media website to remove certain objectionable contents from their website?” The ministry was also asked to share the details of such requests made to these websites in the last three years and their response, along with the details of web pages blocked by the Government recently and the reasons for it.

Monitoring of content on Social Media

The ministry was asked about the number of individuals booked under section 66A of the IT Act in the last three years and the current year, along with the reasons. 

  • In its response, the ministry informed the Lok Sabha that the Supreme Court had struck down section 66A of IT Act 2000 in March 2015. And “as per the data maintained by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of
    A. 2,423 persons in 2014 and
    B. 3,137 persons in 2015
    were arrested under combined sections of 66 & 66A of IT Act. NCRB did not maintain data separately for section 66A. The data on section 66A of IT Act is not collected by NCRB since 2016 onwards.”

The government was also asked if there is any monitoring mechanism in place to regulate the content posted on social media sites. If not, what are the steps taken by the government to check the posting of objectionable contents on such sites?

  • The Centre outlined its commitment to freedom of speech and expression and privacy of its citizens as enshrined in the Indian constitution and denied regulating content appearing on social media sites. It said that law enforcement agencies take action on posting of malicious content on case-to-case basis.
  • In the response, the ministry also pointed out that the IT Act, 2000 has provisions for removal of objectionable online content under section 79 of the Act according to which intermediaries are required to disable/remove unlawful content on being notified by appropriate government or its agency.

Read our censorship-related coverage here.