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Homechevron_rightIndiachevron_rightX urges for more...

X urges for more transparency, ‘disagrees’ with Centre’s censorship orders

X urges for more transparency, ‘disagrees’ with Centre’s censorship orders

New Delhi: Billionaire Elon Musk's social media firm X (previously Twitter) has said that it has received instructions from the Indian government to remove specific accounts and links, failing which the platform and its workers may face consequences such as substantial fines and imprisonment.

This is a new flashpoint in the escalating conflict between the social media company and the Indian government after the former sued the Centre in 2022 over content-blocking orders. Last year's verdict, however, went against the corporation.

In an early morning post on Thursday, X's government affairs handle stated that while it was following New Delhi's blocking instructions, it "disagrees" with its actions.

“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,” it said in the post, Indian Express reported.

The majority of these accounts were tweeting in support of the current farmers' protests. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered the disabling of hundreds of accounts and links across several social media sites, including Facebook, X, and Instagram.

“The Indian government has issued executive orders requiring X to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment,” X said. “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.”

A top official from the IT Ministry stated that the administration is considering X's comments and will respond soon.

The company says it sent a message to users whose accounts were impacted by the government's orders: “Consistent with our position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian government’s blocking orders remains pending. We have also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions in accordance with our policies.”

The platform has had a tumultuous history with a wide range of stakeholders over the last five years, including the Centre, the Opposition, conservative groups, and civil society. India is an important market for the microblogging network, with over 30 million users.

The recent spat is reminiscent of rising tensions between the platform and the Indian government during the previous farmers' protest in 2021. At the height of the riots, the government ordered the corporation to deactivate roughly 1,200 accounts for alleged "Khalistan" ties. Prior to that, it asked that the platform remove over 250 accounts, including those of journalists covering the protests.

At the time, X responded by blocking some of the accounts, but later unblocked them, irritating the IT ministry. Later, Twitter informed the government that it would not limit accounts belonging to Indian journalists, activists, and politicians, citing the platform's free speech policy.

The response, however, did not sit well with the government, which claimed that the platform could not "assume the role of a court and justify non-compliance".

Under pressure, X gave in and blocked a number of accounts, including those of sitting Rajya Sabha MP and SP leader Sukhram Singh Yadav, as part of the purge. Yadav's Twitter account had 244 followers at the time, and he had used hashtags like #kisanektajindabad and #singhuborder to express his support for the farmer demonstrations.

Musk described Indian restrictions as "strict" after acquiring the company, stating that he would prefer comply with the government's blocking orders than risk putting Twitter staff in jail. He was referring to the IT Rules, 2021, which state that a top representative of a social media company, such as the chief compliance officer, may face jail time for violating norms.

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TAGS:Central GovernmentX
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