Delhi: Union Minister of State for IT and Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar informed Parliament in a written reply Wednesday that 9,849 social media accounts were blocked in 2020, reflecting a jump of almost 2,000 per cent since 2014, when 471 accounts were blocked.
Chandrasekhar said the accounts were blocked based on the requests of designated nodal officers, adding that the government followed “due process” as outlined in the in the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, notified under section 69A of the IT Act.
In response to another query, Chandrasekhar said that the government was mindful that the “misuse” of social media is a source of “risk and danger”. He added that to minimise and address harms and to also have “an open, safe, trusted, and accountable internet”, the government had published the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, under the IT Act.
Chandrasekhar told the House that central and state law enforcement agencies can take appropriate legal action, and can also request intermediaries like Google and YouTube to remove objectionable content.
Sharp increase in blocked profiles during protests
According to the minister’s reply, only 471 social media accounts were blocked in 2014. The number was 1,385 in 2017, 2,799 in 2018, and 3,635 in 2019. The year 2020 saw the number jump by more than 170 per cent to 9,849, in a period that saw heated protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the passing of three controversial farm laws, now repealed.
In February this year, Twitter blocked 250 accounts upon the request of the government. These accounts reportedly made incendiary remarks and used a hashtag equating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions to “genocide” in the wake of farmers storming Delhi to protest on 26 January. The blocked accounts included those of Caravan magazine, the Kisan Ekta Morcha, activist Hansraj Meena, writer Sanjukta Basu, CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim, former AAP MLA Jarnail Singh, and economist Ajit Ranade.
In March, then-MoS for Information Technology, Sanjay Dhotre, had told Parliament that the government had asked Twitter to block 2,731 accounts in 2020, up from 1,041 in 2019, and 224 in 2018. Facebook was asked to block 1,717 accounts in 2020, 2,049 in 2019, and only 155 in 2018.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)