Blocking Website – UPSC GS3

  • The data shows that in the last four years, the number of social media URLs blocked on the recommendation of the government committee under Section 69A of the IT Act were 10 in 2014, 587 in 2015, 964 in 2016 and 1,329 till November 2017.
  • Additionally, 432 URLs were blocked through court orders in 2014, 632 in 2015, 100 in 2016 and 83 till November 2017.
  • Cert-In received requests for blocking from intelligence agencies.
Why is it done?
  • Social media sites are a good medium to share and exchange information, some miscreants are also using this platform to spread rumours and posting objectionable content thereby causing disturbance in the society
  • Misuse of social networking sites for malicious purposes is on the rise. These websites are being used by malicious people to harvest personal information of the targeted users or group of users
  • There are provisions in the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 and Indian Penal Code to deal with “objectionable content” posted online.
  • Social media sites are required to disable or remove any unlawful information as and when it is brought to their knowledge through a court order or by an appropriate government agency.
  • Blocking is a sovereign power that is given to the government by virtue of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. So under certain specified considerations, the power of blocking can be exercised. This power was inserted in the IT Act by virtue of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, which came into effect from October 2009.
  • Various law enforcement agencies notify social media sites for removal of content or disabling of content under Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act 2000.
Issue Area
  • Blocking as a phenomenon is an outdated paradigm. In today’s context of the Internet and its architecture, it is almost impossible to block any content
  • A number of these blocking events happen for political reasons.
  • There is a lack of transparency in terms of having in place adequate parameters on what kind of instances the power of blocking can be exercised because parameters like sovereignty and integrity of India are vast. And a large number of things can be brought under it as per the subjective interpretation of the concerned authority
Way forward
Merely saying that blocking of a website or URL is in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, would not suffice. Clear illustration of how the same would impact the sovereignty and integrity will be far more helpful.

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