The Centre asked social media intermediaries to block at least 36,838 uniform resource locators, or URLs, between 2018 and October 2023 under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, the Electronics and Information Technology Ministry told Parliament on Friday.

Under Section 69A of the Act, an authorised personnel in the Union government, not below the rank of a joint secretary, can send content removal orders to social media platforms. The provision allows the Centre to issue content-blocking orders to online intermediaries if the content is deemed a threat to national security, sovereignty or public order.

On Friday, Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar shared the data in the Rajya Sabha in response to a question by Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP John Brittas.

The Opposition legislator had asked the information technology minister to share the number and details of orders issued by the Centre during last five years directing the social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, to block or remove posts, entire accounts or topic hashtags.

Between 2018 and October this year, the Centre sent 13,660 blocking orders to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. This was the highest received by any social media intermediary.

The number of blocking orders for X saw a steady increase from just 224 in 2018 to 3,390 in 2023 till October. In 2022, the maximum number of URLs that were ordered to be blocked were from X at 3,423. In 2021, the Centre had ordered 2,851 URLs from X to be blocked, up from 2,731 links in 2020.

However, a clear pattern was not seen on other social media platforms.

Between 2018 and October this year, the ministry issued 10,197 blocking orders to Facebook, 3,023 to Instagram, 5,759 to YouTube and 4,199 to other social media intermediaries that the data did not specify.

Chandrasekhar said that “the policies of the government are aimed at ensuring that the internet in India is open, safe, trusted and accountable to all users”. The government issues lawful directions for the blocking of access to information by the public under Section 69A of the Act, he added.

Also read: How India is using its Information Technology Act to arbitrarily take down online content