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'If Media Can Report on Farmers Protest, Why Stop Us': Twitter to Karnataka HC

It emphasised that Section 69 A of the IT Act does not contemplate wholesale blocking of account.

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Microblogging site Twitter told the Karnataka High Court on Monday, 26 September, that it was asked by the Centre to block multiple accounts during the farmers protest in and around New Delhi in 2021.

Between February 2021 and February 2022, the Centre issued 10 blocking orders to Twitter to restrict information to the public and suspend several accounts.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Twitter, emphasised that Section 69 A of the Information Technology Act does not contemplate wholesale blocking of accounts.

“For example, during the farmer’s agitation in Delhi.. they had simply asked to completely block the accounts. When newspapers and TV channels are reporting it, why do you tell me to completely block all these accounts,” Bar and Bench quoted Datar as saying.

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He further stated that the law only permits the blocking of a particular tweet, and not an entire account simply because of political criticism unless there is evidence of a repeated offence.

He also argued that the government was required to serve a notice of blocking to the account holder along with the intermediary. Thus, a stand taken was that the orders under challenge had not followed procedural requirements.

“When you pass a blocking order – it affects the intermediary, and the person. Since it prevents the platform from purveying information," he said. The next hearing on the matter is on 17 October.

If Media Can Report About Farmers' Protest, Why Ask Us to Block User Accounts, Asks Twitter

Twitter opposed the orders issued by the Centre. It asked how it could be directed to block user accounts and muffle their freedom of speech, when news relating to these events were freely circulated by television and print media.

"If on my platform 1200 accounts are blocked even when material is appearing in print and TV, then it is causing prejudice," LiveLaw quoted Datar as saying.

Earlier, in its plea filed before the high court, Twitter said that blocking individual accounts is unconstitutional and termed it a disproportionate measure.

In 2021, Twitter was issued 2,851 blocking orders under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the highest for any year.

The petition states that the orders in question are manifestly arbitrary, and procedurally and substantively not in consonance with Section 69A of the IT Act.

The Centre meanwhile has called the platform habitually "non-complaint." Earlier this month, the Centre told the high court hat it is not for an intermediary platform like Twitter to define what free speech is and what content will cause national security or public order issues.

(With inputs from Bar and Bench and LiveLaw. )

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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