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Business News/ News / Complied, but disagree with Indian Govt’s blocking orders: X
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Complied, but disagree with Indian Govt’s blocking orders: X

The latest instance of the government instructing social media platforms to block accounts or posts during a stretch of the farmers’ protest has industry experts worried about the misuse of reasonable legal exemptions

Elon Musk’s social media platform X said it has complied with the Indian government’s order to block a number of posts and accounts although it disagrees with these actions. (Reuters)Premium
Elon Musk’s social media platform X said it has complied with the Indian government’s order to block a number of posts and accounts although it disagrees with these actions. (Reuters)

NEW DELHI : Elon Musk’s social media platform X has said it is complying with the Indian government’s orders to block a number of posts and accounts, although it “disagree(s) with these actions and maintain(s) that freedom of expression should extend to these posts". 

X’s statement, issued on Thursday through its ‘Global Government Affairs’ account on the platform, comes about a week after the Union government asked multiple platforms—including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Reddit—to block specific posts and accounts between 14 and 19 February in light of farmer protests in the National Capital Region.

“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 its statement.

“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," it said.

The latest instance of the government instructing social media platforms to block accounts or posts has industry experts worried about the use of provisions allowing for reasonable legal exemptions.

“It is unclear on what basis the executive is issuing reportedly ‘conditional’ or ‘temporary’ orders, where it draws the power to do so, and what procedures govern them," said Prateek Waghre, executive director at policy advocacy think-tank Internet Freedom Foundation of India.

The government issued these orders through the ministry of electronics and information technology at the behest of the Union ministry of home affairs.

The IT ministry did not immediately reply to emailed queries.

“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," X added in its statement.

“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 social media platform said.

It remains unclear as to which specific writ appeal X’s statement refers to, or what the legal restrictions in question are. 

A senior lawyer, who represents multiple top tech firms in the country, said while the government likely issued orders under Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, the change over to the Digital Personal Data Privacy (DPDP) Act, 2023 may not significantly alter the ambit of such legal orders.

“It remains to be seen if the Centre offers any explanation of which clauses under law were such orders issued," the lawyer said, declining to be identified. “Arbitrary misuse of legal exemptions afforded to and by the Centre itself can raise concerns globally across tech sectors on how reliable India’s regulatory environment would be in the long run."

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Published: 22 Feb 2024, 08:55 PM IST
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