X disagrees but says will withhold some accounts, posts in India as per govt order | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

X disagrees but says will withhold some accounts, posts in India as per govt order

Feb 22, 2024 01:39 PM IST

The Karnataka high court last year dismissed Twitter’s plea challenging 2021 takedown orders and fined the American company ₹50 lakh for failing to act on time

Social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday said it will withhold some accounts and posts in India as per the Indian government’s orders even as it disagreed with the action citing the freedom of expression.

The company cited legal restrictions and added it was unable to publish the executive orders. (X)
The company cited legal restrictions and added it was unable to publish the executive orders. (X)

“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. 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 platform announced via its Global Government Affairs account.

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“Consistent with our position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian government’s blocking orders remains pending,” X added.

X has appealed against the Karnataka high court’s 2023 order imposing a 50 lakh fine on the company for not complying with the emergency blocking orders issued during the 2021 farmers’ protest.

X, then Twitter, in 2022 filed a plea in the high court against the blocking orders. Twitter refused to block the accounts and links for over a year until it eventually challenged them.

In its post on Thursday, X said: “We have also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions in accordance with our policies.”

Multiple users whose posts and accounts have been withheld in India over the last two weeks reported that they had not received emails from X informing them about their content being blocked.

X said due to legal restrictions, it was 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.”

Until April 15, 2023, Twitter used to provide details of the links and accounts blocked in India to the Lumen database, an independent research project by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that catalogues blocking orders and court-ordered takedowns from around the world for services such as Google and Twitter.

HT reported on February 15 and 20 that the government has issued two sets of blocking orders for social media accounts and links related to fresh farmers’ protests. As per the February 19 order, 177 links and accounts were blocked. They include 42 X accounts and 49 links.

On Wednesday, another set of blocking orders was issued to multiple social media platforms, including X and YouTube on the recommendation of the Union home ministry. These were not emergency orders but regular blocking orders. HT could not ascertain the number of links the order has been issued against.

X’s statement on the fresh blocking orders came days after fact-checker Mohammed Zubair wrote a lot of accounts critical of the Bharatiya Janata Party government have either been suspended or withheld in India. “Many influential X accounts of ground reporters/influencers/prominent farm unionists covering [fresh] Farmers Protest in India are suspended too. Sharing a few accounts. But there are many more X accounts which were suspended or withheld in India...” he wrote on X attaching screenshots of withheld accounts.

The screenshots included those of accounts of independent journalists Sandeep Singh and Mandeep Punia, news portal Gaon Savera, Tribal Army, its founder Hansraj Meena, and @tractor2twitr_i providing updates about farmers’ protests. Singh and Punia’s accounts were also blocked during the previous farmer protests.

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