The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology ordered Twitter to block 2,851 URLs or uniform resource locators in 2021 and 1,122 till June this year under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, data shared by the government in the Lok Sabha showed.

Section 69A of the Act allows the government to block public access to content in the interest of national security.

The IT ministry’s directions to block Twitter URLs have seen a consistent rise since the Modi government came to power in 2014, according to the data shared by Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

The minister was responding to a question by Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi, who had sought year-wise details of government requests to suspend or reduce the visibility of Twitter accounts and the reasons behind such orders since 2014.

From eight in 2014, the number of blocked URLs increased to 15 in 2015, 194 in 2016 and 588 in 2017 before dropping to 225 in 2018. In 2019, the government blocked 1,041 URLs. The figure jumped to 2,731 in 2020 and 2,851 in 2021.

In February 2021, the government asked Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts that criticised the Centre over its handling of the large-scale farmer protests which started in November 2020. The social media platform initially refused, but eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time.

In April last year, the Centre had asked Twitter to pull down accounts that criticised the government’s handling of Covid-19 during the second wave when lakhs of people died.

An analysis of Twitter’s global transparency reports also showed that legal demands made by the Indian government and courts to remove content from Twitter increased by 48,000% between 2014 and 2020.

Twitter has moved the Karnataka High Court challenging the government orders to block certain tweets and accounts from the social media platform.

“Several of the URLs contain political and journalistic content,” the company’s petition said. “Blocking of such information is a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform.”

On Tuesday, the High Court issued a notice to the Centre and directed Twitter to share all related documents in a sealed cover with the government’s counsel.