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“We Disagree with Centre’s Action”: X Responds to Govt’s Censorship Order, Majority Linked to Farmer’s Protest

Accounts and posts to be withheld in India alone; Legal challenge is ongoing in the meantime.

We Disagree with Centre's Action X Responds to Govt's Censorship Order, Majority Linked to Farmer's Protest
Photo: Mashable India

The micro-blogging site, X (formerly twitter) revealed on Thursday that the Central government has given orders to block accounts and posts, failing which they will be ‘subject to potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment’. 

In response, Billionaire Elon Musk’s social media company X agreed to comply with blocking orders, but asserted that it “disagrees” with its actions owing to freedom of expression. 

“In compliance with the orders, we will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts”, the post read.

Affected users have been notified of the government’s orders, in accordance with the company’s policies, it said.

Notably, the majority of the accounts/posts that the Indian government asked X to block were in support of ongoing farmers’ protests. According to sources, the Ministry of Electronics and IT has ordered social media platforms to temporarily block 177 accounts that were linked to farmers’ protests as directed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

The farmers had initially brought up the issue of suspension of several farmer leader’s social media accounts in the third round of talks. After which, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal stated that ministers have provided assurance regarding the restoration of these accounts.

The social media platform underlined the need for transparency, saying “Due to legal restrictions, we are unable to publish the executive orders, but we believe that making them public is essential for transparency. This lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of accountability and arbitrary decision-making”. 

The government is reviewing X’s statement and will soon respond to it, a senior IT Ministry official said.

Meanwhile, farmers from across the country have been protesting to press for their demands, including a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops, farm debt waiver among others. Currently, the Delhi Chalo march is on hold for two days after a protester was killed and about 12 police personnel were injured in clashes at one of protest sites on the Punjab-Haryana border.

X has challenged such orders previously too, but failed

Over the recent years, there has been an escalating tension between the social media platform and the Indian government. Last year, a ruling went against the company over a case wherein X had sued the Centre for content-blocking orders in 2022.

During the previous farmer’s agitation in 2021, the Centre had asked the company to take down approximately 1200 accounts over alleged “Khalistan” links. This came after the government asked the firm to take down more than 250 accounts, including those of journalists reporting on the protests.

Initially, it complied with the order and blocked a few accounts. However, Twitter (currently X) later unblocked them and told the government that it would not restrict accounts belonging to journalists, activists, and politicians in India citing freedom of speech on its platform.
Nevertheless, the tussle did not go well. Musk relented, and called the Indian regulations “strict” as he was coerced into alluding to the Information Technology Rules, 2021, under which a senior representative of social media companies – the chief compliance officer – can be potentially jailed for violating norms.

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