NEW DELHI: The government wants to arm itself with powers to block global social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Instagram in cases where national security or public order are under threat. The exercise comes at a time when the government has expressed serious reservations over the responses given by WhatsApp after it was asked how its platform was used for mobilisation by deadly lynch mobs across various states.
The department of telecom (DoT) has sought the industry’s views on technical measures that can be deployed for blocking popular mobile apps under Section 69A of the IT Act, which spells out powers to issue directions for blocking public access to any information through a computer resource.
Through a letter issued on July 18, DoT sought the views of telecom operators, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), mobile industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and others associations.
Concerns around the issues have been raised by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, as well some of the law-enforcement agencies.
Section 69A authorises the central government or any officer authorised by it to issue directions to block information on the internet in the name of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of the country, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to them.
The viral messaging of rumours on social media platforms has often been blamed for mob lynchings across many states. WhatsApp has been particularly questioned by the government on the issue. An IT ministry official said that the Facebook-owned instant messenger has not committed itself on “traceability” and attribution of messages, which had been one of the key demands of the government.
WhatsApp told the government it is building a local team, including having an India head, as part of steps to check fake news circulation.