The number of requests made by the Indian government to Twitter to take down content on the micro-blogging platform has risen considerably since 2019, according to data shared by Minister of State of Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrashekhar to the Lok Sabha.
While the number of such takedown requests were at 1,247 between 2014 to 2018, since 2019 to mid-2022 the overall requests for takedown of Twitter content has risen to 7,745. While the Narendra Modi-led government is only half-way through its second term, it has already made 521 per cent more takedown requests of Twitter URLs during this period, as compared to its entire first term.
In the first six months of 2022, the number of such requests stand at 1,122, which has already exceeded the 1,041 takedown requests it made in the entirety of 2019.
"In line with the objective of the Government to ensure an Open, Safe & Trusted and Accountable Internet for all its users, MeitY issued directions for blocking to Twitter to block URLs including accounts under provision of section 69A of the IT Act, 2000," noted the response by Chandrashekhar to the Lok Sabha question.
According to the data provided, 2021 remains the year where the most number of orders were made by the Indian government to takedown Twitter content, peaking at 2,851.
2021 also marks the year when Twitter found itself embroiled in a tussle with the Indian government over who could have the last word on what remains on the platform, and what needs to be removed.
It was also the year that The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, also called the new IT Rules, came into effect, requiring social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to be represented by a compliance officer who would be subjected to accountability in case of failure of compliance with government orders.
Furthermore, towards the beginning of last year, at the height of the farmers' protest in the national capital region, the government ordered the blocking of 34 Twitter accounts. These accounts belonged to activists, journalists, and media houses who were involved in reporting on the protests.
This eventually led the microblogging platform to sue the Indian government at Karnataka High Court, challenging the legality of the order to block these 34 accounts and some other tweets.
The Blocking Orders failed to give prior notice to the account holders and failed to give proper reasons for withholding the account, read the plea filed by the company. Twitter added, that to the best of its knowledge no notice or any opportunity at a hearing was given to users before their accounts were taken down.
Several of the URLs the Centre wanted to withhold contain political and journalistic content, Twitter said. Blocking such information is a gross violation of free speech, it added.
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