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Govt blocked 7,819 social media URLs between 2017-19: Lok Sabha

Credit: Aditi Agrawal

In the last three years, the government blocked 7,819 URLs under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha on March 11.

Blocked social media URLs under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act
2019: 3,635
2018: 2,799
2017: 1,385

This shows that progressively more URLs are being blocked using Section 69A.

The number of blocked URLs for 2017 and 2018 is the same as the one IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had revealed in December 2019, suggesting that Dhotre gave the number of blocked social media URLs, not all URLs.

Numbers don’t add up: However, in December 2018, MeitY had informed the Lok Sabha that it had blocked 2,388 social media URLs in 2018, and 1,329 in 2017 under Section 69A of the IT Act. Strangely enough, the question was answered on December 12, 2018, but the 2018 figures were for up to December 31. This either suggests that the government has a crystal ball, or that it blocked another 411 social media URLs in 19 days, thereby making its reporting incorrect. Also, the number of blocked URLs for 2017 that was reported in 2018 (1,329) was less than the number reported now (1,385).

Dhotre was responding to BJP MPs Pratima Bhoumik and Sudhakar Tukaram Shrangare, who had asked if the government had a mechanism to block the URLs of any website that spread “misleading information or unlawful content”, and for details of such blocking in the last three years.

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The Minister of State also informed the Lower House that the Ministry is in the process of finalising amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 in response to the MPs’ question if the government was planning “to make the social media liable for advertisement and commissioned content on their platform”. Dhotre did not clarify if the amended rules would hold social media companies liable for content posted on their platforms.

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