29 Sep The power to remove online content
Remove Negative Content Online
The topic is based on Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The article talks about how “Remove Negative Content Online” impacts Indian Polity and Governance- Constitution
Mains: GS II Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation
Recently, the Government passed orders directing YouTube to remove 45 Videos from its 10 channels. The government pointed out that these channels posted videos that aimed to spread hatred among religious communities and the content was detrimental to India’s friendly relations with foreign states. There have been voices of concern regarding the orders on the ground that the proper procedure under Section 69A of the IT Act and IT Rules,2021 was not followed and also suggestions that the power of the Government to remove online content under Section 69A must be used sparingly and responsibly.
SECTION 69A of IT ACT
- Section 69A allows the Indian government to block public access to information online in the interests of India’s sovereignty and integrity, defense, security, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order.
- The directions to stop content under this must be given in writing.
- It imposes a penalty and imprisonment up to 7 years on the social media intermediaries who fail to comply with such directions.
- These directions are enforced by the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.
- The Supreme Court upheld Section 69A in Shreya Singhal vs Union of India. Stating that the rules provided procedural safeguards.
- These safeguards include the need to issue notice to the originators or the intermediary before a blocking order is passed.
- Earlier judgments of the Supreme Court have suggested that for application of Section 69A to a content, the content must be viewed from the standards of a “strong-minded, firm and courageous” person.
Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
- The latest order invokes the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021
- The rules prescribe a procedure for the removal of content. It requires an inter-departmental committee to address complaints
- It has a procedure by which an inter-departmental committee examines complaints/grievances and gives due opportunity to the applicable entity and makes recommendations to the Ministry.
- The authorized Officer has to take the approval of the Secretary, I&B, before directing the publisher or intermediary to block the relevant content in question.
- Blocking orders are examined by a review committee
- There is also an emergency provision under which the Secretary may first order content blocking as an interim measure, and thereafter confirm it after getting the committee’s views. All such blocking orders are subject to the decision of a review committee.
India ranks quite high in the list of countries that make regular requests for removal of online content. Though offensive content which promotes hatred or can pose a threat to security should be removed like hate speech to maintain peace and security in online space, powers to remove these should be used sparingly and responsibly. Mere dissent should not be blocked unless it poses risk to security and stability of online space. Also, such restrictions should be imposed only after following the due process which is following the procedure mandated in the IT Act and Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
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