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Indian Govt Seeks Views on Blocking Apps Like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram in Specific Situations


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The Department of Telecom (DoT) has sought views of the industry on technical measures that can be adopted for blocking mobile apps like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc in situations where national security and public order are under threat.

 

The DoT on July 18, 2018, had written to all telecom operators, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and others and asked for their inputs to block the applications under Section 69A of the IT Act.

 

"DoT in the letter had said that the Ministry of Electronics and IT and law enforcement agencies have raised issue around blocking of certain mobile apps like Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telecom, etc to meet requirement under Section 69A of IT Act," an official source told PTI.

 

The Section 69A of IT Act talks about power to issue directions for blocking for public access to any information through any computer resource. The law authorises the central government or any officer authorised by it to issue direction to block the information on Internet in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to them.

 

 Under the present framework, instructions for blocking of websites or URLs are issued by the DoT to internet service licensees, based on the directions of MeitY and according to the directions from courts. The blocking was done under the Information Technology Act and the Telegraph Act.

 

“These existing mechanisms require to be reviewed, strengthened and reformed, so as to make them more responsive and accountable,” Assocham said.

Assocham said while considering blocking entire applications, its impact on the economy as a whole needed to be considered. The industry body said internet shutdowns cost the Indian economy approximately $3.04 billion between 2012 and 2017.

 

“Besides, it is vital to consider the interests of the consumers whose lives might be disrupted despite having no role in the publication or circulation of unlawful content,” Assocham added.

 

Several cases of mob lynching in recent months took place after false messages were spread on WhatsApp.

 

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