Governance

Indian IT Ministry Blocks Thousands of URLs Citing Cybersecurity Threats

Indian IT Ministry Blocks Thousands of URLs Citing Cybersecurity Threats
  • PublishedAugust 3, 2022

The Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sanctioned the takedown of several URLs in 2021 and 2022 due to the spike in cybersecurity threats. Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 gives them the “power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource.”

The number of recorded cybersecurity threats in India between 2021 and 2022 rose by 20%, leading to strict actions. It is reported that over 6096 URLs were blocked in the year 2021, and over 1096 URLs have been blocked in the year 2022 so far. The URLs were considered harmful by authorities and required to be taken down from public access.

A similar report found that around 11,59,208 threats were taken down by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). An alarming rise of 255% from the previous year, 2019, has led the ministry to take extreme steps in the public interest.

Indian Opposition Minister Shashi Tharoor presented a list of incidents to the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT. Several Twitter accounts have been consistently blocked on the directions of the IT Ministry to curb similar threats online.

The government constantly communicated with Twitter to stop malicious activities. Due to this, hundreds of Twitter accounts that led to heated online debates on topics such as the farmer protests in 2020 were removed. Media handles also received requests to take down accounts citing threats and other cybersecurity incidents. In 2021, over 7898 such requests were made, while in 2022, the figures crossed the 1362 mark.

According to the data provided by the IT Ministry, in the year 2021, they have taken down over 1,082 posts on Facebook, 464 posts on Instagram and 1,121 on YouTube. Over 578 posts were removed from other platforms as per the data provided.

Banning or blocking accounts has given rise to debates about the people’s freedom of speech. In light of the same, Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in the Karnataka High Court. The company’s petition reiterated the issue of the Govt. taking down tweets and accounts critical of the government policies. On Tuesday, the High Court issued a notice to the Center and asked Twitter to provide supporting details to elaborate their concerns.

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