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- Prelims – Polity and Governance
- Mains – GS 2(Polity and Governance)
Context: As Twitter initiated legal action against some of the government ordering it to take down certain content posted on the microblogging site, the focus is back on Section 69A of IT Act, 2000
- Alleging disproportionate use of power by officials, the social media company moved the Karnataka High Court against the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s order content-blocking orders issued under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- IT Ministry had written to Twitter, asking it to comply with its orders by July 4 or lose its safe harbour protection under the intermediary rules.
Information Technology Act, 2000
- The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
- It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
Section 69 of the IT Act:
- It confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.
The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:
- In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
- Friendly relations with foreign states.
- Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
- For investigating any offence.
Process of Blocking Internet Websites:
- Section 69A, for similar reasons and grounds (as stated above), enables the Centre to ask any agency of the government, or any intermediary, to block access to the public of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted on any computer resource.
- Any such request for blocking access must be based on reasons given in writing.
Intermediaries as per the IT Act 2000:
- Intermediary is defined in Section 2(1) (w) of the IT Act 2000.
- The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
- It includes any person who, on behalf of another, “receives, stores or transmits” any electronic record. Social media platforms would fall under this definition.
Obligations of Intermediaries under the Law:
- Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information in a manner and format prescribed by the Centre for a specified duration.
- Contravention of this provision may attract a prison term that may go up to three years, besides a fine.
- When a direction is given for monitoring, the intermediary and any person in charge of a computer resource should extend technical assistance in the form of giving access or securing access to the resource involved.
- Failure to extend such assistance may entail a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.
- Failure to comply with a direction to block access to the public on a government’s written request also attracts a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.
Liability of Intermediaries:
- Section 79 of the IT Act 2000 makes it clear that “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him”.
- Third party information means any information dealt with by a network service provider in his capacity as an intermediary.
- This protects intermediaries such as Internet and data service providers and those hosting websites from being made liable for content that users may post or generate.
- Sections 79 also introduced the concept of “notice and take down” provision.
- It provides that an intermediary would lose its immunity if upon receiving actual knowledge or on being notified that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by it is being used to commit an unlawful act and it fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material.
Why has Twitter filed the lawsuit?
- It is learnt that in its filing, Twitter has claimed that many of the blocking orders are procedurally and substantively deficient under Section 69 (A) of the Act.
- This includes aspects such as not giving prior notice to users before taking down content posted by them.
- The company alleged that MeitY has failed to demonstrate how some of the content it wants taken down falls under the purview of Section 69 (A).
- The company has claimed that the basis on which multiple accounts and posts have been flagged by the Ministry are either “overbroad and arbitrary” or “disproportionate”
Source: Indian Express