IT Act Sec 69A: when social media content is blocked, and Twitter lawsuit

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IT Act Sec 69A: when social media content is blocked, and Twitter lawsuit

  • Twitter has sought a legal review of multiple notices issued to it by the Indian government to take down content.

Recent developments

  • Twitter moved to Karnataka HC against MeitY’s content-blocking orders issued under Section 69(A) of IT Act, 2000.
  • Section 69(A), IT Act, 2000: empowers central government to block the online content and arrest the culprit.

Why Twitter challenged the government?

  • Procedurally and substantively deficient orders
  • Many blocking orders are deficient under Section 69(A) of the Act.
    • Eg: they demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate.
    • In several cases there are demands for entire accounts to be blocked.
  • Against freedom of speech
  • Includes aspects such as not giving prior notice to users before taking down content posted by them.
  • Blocking some of the information may be a violation of freedom of speech.
  • Orders fail to establish a link with grounds under section 69A
  • In some cases, content was sought to be blocked by only citing the grounds under section 69A of IT Act.
    • The Government has failed to provide a reason for blocking content.
  • Orders are against the stand taken by the ministry of IT in Delhi HC
  • The IT ministry in Delhi HC stated that only a part of content if unlawful should be taken down.
  • Taking down a user account should be a last resort.

Central Government’s Response

  • Countries across the world, including India, are moving towards making social media accountable.
  • All internet intermediaries and platforms operating in India have to comply with the laws and rules of the country.

Who is an Intermediary?

  • Intermediaries are entities that store or transmit data on behalf of other persons.
  • Eg: Telecom and internet service providers, online marketplaces, search engines, and social media sites.
  • IT Act, 2000 was amended in 2008 to provide an exemption to intermediaries from liability for any third-party information.
  • IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandated social media companies to appoint India-based resident grievance officers as ‘intermediaries’ who enjoy legal immunity from third-party content on their platform.
  • Responsibility: Overseeing grievance redressal mechanism of complaints from the people who use their services.