Amid farm protest, IT ministry blocks 177 accounts, links | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Amid farm protest, IT ministry blocks 177 accounts, links

By, New Delhi
Feb 20, 2024 05:44 AM IST

Meity issued emergency blocking orders against 177 social media accounts related to farmers’ protests to maintain public order, following MHA's request.

The ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) finalised its emergency blocking orders against 177 social media accounts and links related to the farmers’ protests on Monday to maintain “public order”.

Tractors of farmers parked at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border on Monday. (PTI)
Tractors of farmers parked at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border on Monday. (PTI)

The emergency orders were issued at the request of the ministry of home affairs last week. These were in addition to the final orders issued on February 14.

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Both sets of final blocking orders --- issued on February 19 and 14 --- are conditional, interim orders and have been issued for the duration of the agitation after which the social media platforms can restore the visibility of the accounts and channels in India. This is not the first time that such temporary Section 69A blocking orders have been issued as protests rage, HT has learnt.

Also read: Farmers reject Centre's proposal to procure five crops at MSP over next five years

Monday’s orders have been issued against 35 Facebook links, 35 Facebook accounts, 14 Instagram accounts, 42 Twitter accounts, 49 Twitter links, 1 Snapchat account and 1 Reddit account. While orders to Facebook and Twitter (now X) are commonplace, this is the first blocking order issued to Snap. No blocking orders were issued against YouTube channels or videos in the latest tranche.

In the meeting of the Section 69A blocking committee on Monday, representatives from Meta (for both Facebook and Instagram), Twitter and Snap appeared. Nobody from Reddit appeared.

It is understood that the representatives from Meta and Twitter argued that instead of blocking entire accounts, specific URLs with the content should be blocked. The committee’s response was that if the account remained active, it could continue to post content that could lead to public unrest and public order issues.

Accounts that have been blocked via the Monday orders include the Twitter account of Manoj Singh Duhan of Unionist Sikh Mission, and Facebook pages expressing support for Lakha Singh Sidhana, a gangster turned politician.

HT could not ascertain the total number of accounts and URLs that were blocked via the February 14 blocking orders but those affected included Twitter accounts of Kisan Ekta Morcha’s @kisanektamorcha, @Tractor2twitr, @Tractor2twitr_P run and Progressive Farmers Front’s @FarmersFront.

Also read: Farmers protest: What Centre proposed to farm leaders at key round 4 meeting?

The February 14 blocking orders were issued as emergency orders on either February 8 or 9 in anticipation of the farmers’ march to Delhi on February 13.

During the farmers’ protests of 2021, the government had similarly blocked social media accounts of protestors and multiple journalists reporting on the issue. Eventually, the then Twitter (now X), had challenged the government’s blocking orders in Karnataka High Court but lost the case.

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