Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and others have blocked 1,662 URLs in the 18-month period ended June 2018, upon requests from the Indian government, out of a total recommended 2,245 links. This information was provided by the Centre in the Parliament in the recently concluded monsoon session.
“The legal provisions that are currently available with regard to the conduct of intermediaries, which includes various social media platforms, in order to respond to such developments, are in the IT Act, 2000. Some of such provisions need to be revised and reinforced so that they can respond to the emerging challenges. This is proposed to be done by strengthening the implementation aspects of Section 79 of IT Act, 2000,” Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had said last month while making his statement on ‘Misuse of Social Media Platforms and propagation of fake news causing unrest and violence’ in the Rajya Sabha.
Social media platforms in India are governed by the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines), 2011 and apart from the Centre, various courts, NGOs and private entities, from time to time request these websites to remove pieces of content that are in contravention of the local law. Recently, these rules had been invoked by corporations such as PepsiCo, Patanjali Ayurved and ITC to have disparaging content taken off from social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
According to information provided in Parliament, during the 18-month period, the government requested removal of 1,076 links to Facebook, of which it complied by blocking 956. Similarly, the Centre requested micro-blogging site Twitter to block 728 URLs, of which it removed 409. Notably, according to data published by Facebook, entities from India including the government sent the fourth highest number of content restriction requests during calendar year 2017, only behind Mexico, Turkey and Germany.
The government recently began cracking down social media platforms in order to counter the circulation of fake news that, in recent cases, has led to people being killed. In fact, the IT ministry had warned the platforms that they would be liable for legal action “if they remain mute spectators” when rumours and fake news get propagated. In reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir had pointed out on
July 24 that law enforcement agencies monitor the web and social media and take appropriate action for blocking of unlawful content.
Further, he said that a committee constituted under Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 periodically monitors the compliance of the directions issued under the provisions of IT Act, 2000. “Government holds meetings with intermediaries from time to time for strengthening the cooperation framework to ensure better compliance,” Ahir had said.