What Can You Do If Your Social Media Handle is Blocked?
An RTI filed by the IFF has revealed that at least 94 blocking orders were issued by DoT in the last two years.
In the last few months, there has been a significant increase in social media accounts being banned on the request of the Indian government.
This includes several Twitter handles being blocked in the wake of the farmers’ protests, or the suspension of Instagram and Twitter accounts providing COVID-19 related information under the pretext of combating 'fake news'.
An RTI filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has revealed that at least 94 blocking orders were issued by Department of Technology in the last two years where 3725 website/URLs have been blocked.
"From an estimated 3600 in all of 2019 to 9800 in 2020 to almost 6000 within the first six months of 2021, the government takedown orders to Twitter have more than doubled in the recent past with orders being largely arbitrary and discriminatory," read a statement by IFF.
Why Are Accounts Blocked?
If a social media platform suspects an account has been hacked or compromised, it may suspend it until it can be secured and restored to the account owner in order to reduce potentially malicious activity caused by the compromise.
Social media accounts can also be suspended if it has been reported as violating community rules surrounding abuse. When an account engages in abusive behaviour, like sending threats to others or impersonating other accounts, platforms suspend it temporarily or, in some cases, even permanently.
Information Technology Rules 2021 also obligates social media platforms to remove any content within 36 hours upon receiving directions from any government agencies or orders from any competent court.
How Social Media Companies Can Help
Twitter: If you have a Twitter account, you can either write to the grievance redressal officer indicating your grievance. According to the IT Rules 2021, Twitter is bound to acknowledge your grievance within 24 hours, and take action on it in 15 days. Alternatively, you can also file an appeal with Twitter, on its help center.
Facebook: Facebook also allows users to directly get in touch with the grievance redressal team to report or resolve an issue. If your account has been disabled, you can contact Facebook via a form on their website. This form requires the email address used to make the Facebook account, an email where you can be contacted, your name, the year of your birth and a field for additional information.
Instagram: Instagram enables you to raise a complaint through an in-app redressal centre, in the event of your account being blocked or content restricted.
YouTube: YouTube facilitates its users to raise a complaint through its webforms. You may also raise your grievance with Google, YouTube's parent company’s resident team in India.
What Legal Action Can You Take?
IFF in a blog post explains that you can file an RTI application with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, through the online portal, seeking information as to why your account has been restricted. You can also choose to send a legal notice to the platforms challenging the blocking and demanding your account be restored without delay.
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