Twitter asks India court to overturn information blocking orders News
Twitter asks India court to overturn information blocking orders

Twitter, Inc. Tuesday sought judicial review from the High Court of the Indian State of Karnataka of the federal government’s online information blocking orders. In its petition filed before the Karnataka High Court, Twitter contended that the online information blocking orders issued by the federal Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) under § 69A of the Information Technology Act are “procedurally and substantially deficient of the provision” and “demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate.”

§ 69A gives the federal government broad authority to issue information blocking orders to online intermediaries on the nebulous grounds 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 cognizable offence relating to above.”

Twitter’s primary contention is that MeitY was obligated by law to both indicate in its blocking orders which of the aforementioned “narrowly tailored grounds” under § 69A were made out for the information sought to be blocked or taken down as well as provide reasons in support thereof, which MeitY failed to comply with. In 2021, in response to a legal representation before MeitY seeking disclosure of information blocking orders, the federal government argued that blocking orders issued under § 69A were subject to “strict confidentiality” and accordingly, were not obligated to be disclosed.

Twitter contended:

Multiple accounts and content included in the Blocking Orders are either overbroad and arbitrary or fail to provide notice to the originators of the content, and finally are disproportionate in several cases. Moreover, several could pertain to political content that is posted by official handles of political parties … Blocking of such information is a violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform. Further, the content at issue does not have any apparent proximate relationship to the grounds under Section 69A.

The legal proceedings before the Karnataka High Court arise out of a series of disputes between MeitY and Twitter in June over the latter’s alleged non-compliance with several online information blocking orders. The government threatened to initiate criminal proceedings against Twitter senior executives and rescind the company’s “safe harbour” immunity. The immunity is statutorily afforded to all online intermediaries operating within the country under § 79(1) of the Information Technology Act.