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No communication ever threatened social media staff with jail term: IT Ministry

The government has never threatened employees of any social media platform, such as Twitter, with jail terms, the IT Ministry has said.

Reacting to reports that alluded to Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter employees being threatened with jail terms, the Ministry said social media platforms are “obliged to follow the laws of India and the Constitution of India, just like all other businesses in India have to.”

“As has been conveyed on the floor of Parliament, users of social media can criticise the government, the Prime Minister, or any Minister, but promotion of violence, rampant communal divide, and stoking the flames of terrorism will have to be reflected upon,” it said.

The government had ordered Twitter to take down hundreds of posts, accounts, and hashtags that it saw violating rules. Twitter initially did not fully comply but fell in line after the government showed the rule book that contained penal provisions.

The IT Ministry went on to state that the recent guidelines pertaining to social media simply require the platforms to put in place a robust grievance redressal mechanism for users.

“None of the government communications, either written or oral, have ever threatened the employees of any of the social media platforms [with] jail terms,” it said.

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“The government welcomes criticism and dissent. However, of late, repeated instances of abuse of social media to foment hate, discord, and violence by terrorist groups from outside India and circulation of morphed images of women and revenge porn, posing threat to the safety of users especially women users, have become grave concerns,” it said.

Last week, more than 4,400 URLs on Facebook and Twitter were blocked by the government under Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, Parliament.

Electronics and IT Minister of State Sanjay Dhotre said Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000, empowered the government to block any information generated, transmitted, received, stored, or hosted in any computer resource in the interest of sovereignty and security of the country, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence related to these.

(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)

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