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 Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000

Context:

Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) issued orders under Section 69 (A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 to take down certain posts from Twitter (Microblogging Site).

  • Twitter has moved to Karnataka High Court, claiming that many of the blocking orders are procedurally and substantively deficient under Section 69 (A) of the Act.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Current Issue?
  2. What is the IT Act?
  3. Section 69 of the IT Act
  4. What is the Reason for Intermediaries to Show Compliance to IT Act?

What is the Current Issue?

  • According to Section 69(A) of the IT Act, the company “failed to comply with the orders on numerous occasions,” according to the Ministry.
  • In response to a request from the government in 2021, Twitter provided a list of more than 80 accounts and tweets that it had previously disabled.
  • Twitter asserts that the reasons why the Ministry flagged several accounts and posts are either “overbroad and arbitrary” or “disproportionate.”
  • According to Twitter, some of the ministry’s flagged content may relate to official political party accounts, and removing them might violate their Right to Free Speech.

What is the IT Act?

  • The year 2000 saw the rise of IT Bill which it received assent of President and hence came to be the Information Technology (IT) act in which Cyber laws are contained.
  • The Aim of the Act was to provide legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 also aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means. The Act states that unless otherwise agreed, an acceptance of contract may be expressed by electronic means of communication and the same shall have legal validity and enforceability.
  • In India, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
  • It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
  • The role of the intermediaries has been spelt out in separate rules framed for the purpose in 2011- The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

Amendment to the IT Act

  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 – An act to amend the IT Act 2000 received the assent of the President on 5th February 2009.
It dealt with various changes such as:
  • Data Protection –with no specific reference to Data Protection in 2000 Act, the ITA 2008 introduced two sections addressing Data Protection, Section 43A (Compensation for failure to protect data), and Section 72A (Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract.
  • Information Preservation – Section 67C refers to the Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries. According to Central Government, any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall not be liable to fine.
  • Section 69 gives power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer source.
    • Section 69B authorizes to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for Cyber security.

Section 69 of the IT Act

  • It confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions “to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.

The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:

  • In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
  • Friendly relations with foreign states.
  • Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
  • For investigating any offence.
Process of Blocking Internet Websites:
  • Section 69A, for similar reasons and grounds (as stated above), enables the Centre to ask any agency of the government, or any intermediary, to block access to the public of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored or hosted on any computer resource.
  • The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
  • Any such request for blocking access must be based on reasons given in writing.

Intermediaries and their obligation as per the IT Act

  • The term ‘intermediaries’ includes providers of telecom service, network service, Internet service and web hosting, besides search engines, online payment and auction sites, online marketplaces and cyber cafes.
  • It includes any person who, on behalf of another, “receives, stores or transmits” any electronic record. Social media platforms would fall under this definition.
  • Intermediaries are required to preserve and retain specified information in a manner and format prescribed by the Centre for a specified duration.
  • Contravention of this provision may attract a prison term that may go up to three years, besides a fine.
  • When a direction is given for monitoring, the intermediary and any person in charge of a computer resource should extend technical assistance in the form of giving access or securing access to the resource involved.
  • Failure to extend such assistance may entail a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.
  • Failure to comply with a direction to block access to the public on a government’s written request also attracts a prison term of up to seven years, besides a fine.

-Source: The Hindu


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