Bihar’s internet shutdown orders reveal vague but relatively narrow suspension of mass messaging platforms

IFF filed RTIs with various state governments seeking copies of internet shutdown orders issued under Section 144, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. While most states gave obfuscatory responses, Bihar was the only state which has provided actual copies of orders. An analysis of the orders provides two interesting insights. First, the orders only direct blocking of specific mass messaging platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. and do not require suspension of internet services in their entirety. Second, while the Rules state that orders must contain reasons explaining why there is a threat of public emergency or threat to public safety, the orders issued by the Bihar Government are extremely vague.

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