11 Mar 2021: Indian government blocked 4,400 Facebook, Twitter URLs in 2020
The Indian government has blocked more than 4,400 URLs from Facebook and Twitter in the year 2020. The revelation was made to the Indian Parliament on Wednesday.
The blocking of the web hyperlinks was done as per the Section 69A of the IT Act, which gives the government sweeping powers to censor objectionable content and online rhetoric it considers harmful to the nation.
No mercy: Government leveraged Section 69A to crack down on online content
This information comes at a time when government is engaged in a feud with social media giants, with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) pursuing Twitter and Facebook for policy violation in the country.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Sanjay Dhotre, reiterated that the Section 69A empowers the government to block any material that compromises the nation's sovereignty.
Reining in Big Tech: Crackdown comes on the heels of latest Media Ethics Code
Dhotre stated that the safeguards prescribed within the IT Act 2000, allow the government to form an Inter-Ministerial Committee replete with members (the rank of Joint Secretary or equivalent) examining blocking requests and making recommendations.
This has also followed the drafting of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, which allow the government to keep social media firms in check.
Protecting children: Crackdown on cybercrimes against children increased three-fold over three years
The IT Rules 2021 also place a number of checks and balances against the misuse of social media for pornographic as well as seditious activities.
Dhotre also revealed an increase in crackdowns against cybercrimes involving minors, with the focus particularly on child pornography. The cases filed to protect minors jumped nearly three-fold from 88 in 2017 to 305 in 2019.
Increased scrutiny: The numbers for 2021 will be significant given recent measures
In addition to the massive tally of URLs blocked in 2020, the government had blocked a little more than 3,000 Facebook and Twitter URLs in 2019.
It will be interesting to see the number for the current year, since the government censorship has increased significantly owing to the ongoing farmer's protest and the recent Twitter "toolkit" expose.
Also see: NewsBytes Briefing: Investigation uncovers Facebook's pro ISIS move, and more
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