Twitter might face penal action under IT Act

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3 – Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering and its prevention

Synopsis- Twitter unilaterally restored accounts despite government order for blocking.

Background

  • The Ministry of Electronics and IT ordered Twitter to block more than 250 tweets/Twitter accounts. The order was issued for were making fake, intimidating, and provocative tweets.
  • The development came in the wake of violence in Delhi on January 26 during a tractor parade of farmers, protesting against the three farm bills.
  • Accounts included were linked to an influential magazine, members of an opposition party, and the protest movement such as Kisan Ekta Morcha.
  • Many accounts were blocked after the order. However, the majority of them are restored.

Under which Act Twitter was ordered to withhold the accounts?

Section 69(A) of the IT Act 2000 empowers the government to order block online content to an intermediary. The grounds for such order include sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense.

It is the same section, under which Chinese Apps have been banned in India. The content attached to the said hashtag had been found to be directly falling under Section 69A of the IT Act. Twitter may face penal action for not complying with directions issued.

This section has been criticized for the secrecy of its process. However, in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2015) SC upheld the validity of this section.

Way forward

The government’s stand on farmer’s protest is debatable. However, the inflammatory content and Incitement to genocide cannot be interpreted as freedom of speech as it is a threat to law and order.

This situation may lead to a face-off between tech giant and the government.

Print Friendly and PDF