Twitter challenges government order blocking 39 URLs, says account blocking violates user rights

Twitter has asked the Karnataka High Court to challenge the blocking orders of 39 URLs issued by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).

Ten blocking orders were issued between February 2021 and February 2022, ordering Twitter to block certain information from public access and suspend several accounts. The orders asked the social media platform to block a total of 1,474 accounts and 175 tweetssof which Twitter challenged the blocking of only 39 URLs.

According Bar and Bench, which acceded to the petition filed by the social media giant, Twitter argued that the account-level blocking is a disproportionate measure and violates users’ rights under the Constitution.

Earlier, news agency PTI reported that Twitted had called the blocking orders “overbroad and arbitrary” and argued that they failed to notify the authors of the content and were disproportionate in several cases. .

The blocking orders issued by MEITY were submitted to the Tribunal de Grande Instance via sealed envelopes bearing the mention of annexes A to K, Bar and Bench reported.

According to the report, on June 4 and 6 of this year, the MEITY Designated Officer sent show cause notices to Twitter asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him. Twitter’s compliance officer stated before the designated officer that the content and accounts, the blocking of which was ordered and for which no action was taken, did not fall within the grounds provided for in Article 69A of the Information Technology Act (IT Act). Therefore, the social media giant urged MEITY to reconsider and remove the reviews.

Under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, the center or its authorized agent may seek to block access to information in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or to prevent incitement to commit any recognizable offence.

Subsequently, MEITY sent another notice on June 27 warning Twitter that significant consequences under computer law would prevail, including the loss of its intermediary protections under section 79 of the law, if the content does not was not blocked. However, when the social media platform reiterated that it was not in violation of information technology law, the designated official called a meeting with its compliance officer. During this meeting, MEITY agreed to withdraw the order calling for the blocking of 10 URLs at the account level. He also sent an updated list of 27 URLs to be blocked by Twitter.

On July 4, MEITY sent a letter to Twitter stating that it was reconsidering the June 27 notice and would confirm the next course of action shortly.

Meanwhile, Twitter moved the Karnataka High Court challenging the blocking orders.

The petition also states that the orders in question are manifestly arbitrary and do not comply with Section 69A of the Computers Act in substance and procedure. Further, they fail to comply with the procedures and safeguards prescribed by the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Public Access to Information) Rules 2009 (Blocking Rules).

Twitter argued that the instruction to block entire accounts does not comply with Section 69A. The scope of “information” which may be blocked under this provision of the Computer Law extends only to the blocking of available information and does not apply to the prevention of the generation, transmission or receipt information, the plea would have said.

“… Restraining orders to block access to the entire account cannot be issued without providing compelling reasons as to why such account-level blocking is necessary or appropriate…the account-level blocking account is a disproportionate measure and violates users’ rights under the Constitution,” he said, according to the Bar and bench.

Additionally, Twitter said blocking orders do not provide valid reasons why content should be blocked on the narrow grounds of Section 69A. Procedural safeguards under the blocking rules were also not followed in these cases, Twitter argued.

Based on these and other arguments, Twitter appealed to have all ten blocking orders overturned. Alternatively, he asked that the orders be amended to remove account-level instructions while specifying tweets that violate Section 69A of the Computers Act.

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