The Indian IT Ministry blocked over 6000 URLs in barely 40 meetings throughout the year. As per an RTI filed by the IFF, the Indian IT Ministry paid little heed to the URLs and apps reported to them. The measly number of hearings showcases how little research is done before blocking content on the internet.
What does the RTI reveal about the Indian IT Ministry?
IFF is a proactive organization that raises questions and concerns about internet freedom and equality. The organization filed an RTI in March 2022 to gain information regarding the orders they have issued under the Blocking Rules. Here are a few questions that the IFF included in the RTI:
- Provide the total number of directions issued under the blocking rules in 2021
- List the total number of hearings conducted in 2021 by the committee
- provide the total number of individuals that appeared before the Committee in 2021
- provide the total number of requests for blocking of content received from Ministries of Union Government, State Governments, and any agencies of the Union Government (‘Organisations’)
The RTI Response
The Indian IT Ministry (MeitY) responded to the RTI with some missing facts and figures. It shared that the MeitY had blocked 6096 URLs and 347 mobile applications in 2021. Furthermore, they conducted just 39 hearings in 2021 to meet with the owners/developers of these websites and apps.
MeitY didn’t have a record of the number of people who appeared in these 39 hearings. The ministry also refused to share details about the number of blocking requests they received for the URLs and apps in question.
Why is it concerning?
Blocking a website or app obstructs the fundamental right to speech. If the Indian IT Ministry blocks a website or an app due to some wrongdoing, it must conduct a proper hearing before doing so. But that isn’t the case with the websites and apps blocked last year.
The number of hearings showcases the urgency that MeitY displayed in blocking the reported websites. But they didn’t think of calling the creators and granting them a fair trial before taking action. It is a breach of Section 69A of the IT Act which requires identifying the person behind the URL or app.
The committee didn’t factor in the creator’s right and levied judgment without any hearing. Moreover, the absence of information about the requests made for blocking these URLs and apps also raises concerns about intentional blocking due to personal interests. You can read the full post by IFF here.