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Modi govt blocked 3,635 websites & webpages in 2019 — over twice of 2017 figures

Instances of content that had the potential to incite hatred and violence increased with higher internet usage, Union minister Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha.

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New Delhi: In a reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha Wednesday, the Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology told the Lower House that it had blocked 3,635 websites, webpages and accounts in 2019.

This is over twice the number of websites and pages the government blocked in 2017 — 1,385. In 2018, this figure was at 2,799.

The answer came in response to a question by Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress MP from Ludhiana, on the subject of ‘regulation of social media platforms’.

Bittu asked whether platforms such as Facebook and Instagram were increasingly being used to incite violence and hatred and what action the Centre had taken in states and Union territories on the same. He also asked if the government had taken any measures to build a framework to prevent the misuse of social media platforms that posed a threat to the unity and integrity of the country.

Also read: Facebook bans Chinese firm that was ‘snooping’ on Indian politicians, military leaders

‘Global issue’

Replying to Bittu, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Sanjay Dhotre explained that the potential for misuse of cyberspace and social media platforms for criminal activities was a “global issue”. With increased internet usage, instances of content that had the potential to incite hatred and violence were also increasingly being reported.

Dhotre clarified that the Centre had a well-defined framework to report and block public access under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000.

He reported the number of websites, web pages and accounts that had been blocked since the past three years, as enumerated above.

Stating that the blocking of information for public access was a power vested with the Centre, he explained that there was no information on the same for states and Union territories.

Responding to the question on the steps the government had taken to prevent misuse of social media platforms, Dhotre cited Section 79 of the IT Act, which says social media platforms are intermediates.

Dhotre explained that the role and the conduct of intermediaries should be according to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011. The rules mandate intermediaries to inform users not to upload, display, modify or share any information which is harmful, defamatory, harassing or an invasion of another’s privacy, among other things. It also tells intermediaries to remove any unlawful content according to Article 19(2) of the Constitution — reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech.

Also read: After WhatsApp hacking & Covid lockdown, 155% more Indians searched for encrypted email


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