IT Ministry Orders Removal of ‘Any and All Content’ Related to a Certain Organisation

Notice issued on Thursday directs all social media platforms to comply in the interest of the security of the state.

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New Delhi: In a notice that marks the advent of officially mandated censorship, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked social media platforms – and by extension all news organisations which share news via social media – to “remove any and all content (either in the form of a text message, audio, video, photo or any other form) related to [a particular] organisation in the interest of security of the state and to prevent any incitement and disruption of public order.”

Going strictly by the wording of the IT ministry’s notice, this means the news about the deletion order can either not be carried by social media platforms at all or carried only if it has been reported in such a way that the particular organisation is not named and the reason why the government has taken action against the organisation in the first place under a certain law is not explained. Allowing the organisation to be named would almost certainly breach the official order to social media platforms mandating the removal of “any and all content… related to” the organisation.

Under Article 19 of the constitution, freedom of speech (and press freedom) is subject only to “reasonable restrictions” – which must be backed by an appropriate law. However, the IT ministry notice makes no mention of any statute under which social media platforms are being censored. It only refers to their “obligation of due diligence, safety and trust to comply immediately with the order/notice issued”.

The ministry’s notice, suitably redacted to ensure any social media platform where this is posted will be in compliance with the official order, is appended below.