Government asks 'X' to block post on farmer's protest

Government asks 'X' to block post on farmer's protest

The Indian government issues a directive to social media platform X to remove accounts related to the ongoing farmers' protests. The directive could lead to severe penalties if not complied with, including substantial fines and imprisonment.

Indian Government and Social Media Platform X embroiled in Freedom of Expression dispute Indian Government and Social Media Platform X embroiled in Freedom of Expression dispute

Twitter (now called X) has accused that accounts associated to farmers' demonstrations had been ordered to be censured, which has put the social media giant and the government at odds once more over the subject of "freedom of expression."

The microblogging site, which is now controlled by American entrepreneur Elon Musk, revealed on Thursday that it had received a directive from the government to remove “particular accounts and posts” or face “penalties including significant fines and imprisonment”.

The announcement coincided with a push by farmer unions for a number of additional objectives, including a law guaranteeing MSP.

Other social networking sites including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube were also covered by the action. According to sources, the two platforms controlled by Meta were also given directives under section 69A of the IT Act, which they have cooperated with. Meta executives declined to comment on the situation.

The X "Global Government Affairs" account said in an early statement on Thursday that the platform was following the decision in India alone, even though it disagreed with the measures and insisted that "freedom of expression should extend to these posts." According to sources, the government's order was in response to "hundreds of posts and accounts," many of which had to do with the most recent wave of agricultural protests as well as other issues.

The government has already sued social media behemoths over the problem of content removal. Early in 2021, during the first wave of farm protests, there was a major standoff when the government threatened to arrest executives of "X," a platform that was formerly Twitter, for their unwillingness to remove specific handles and posts related to the protests, particularly those that discussed the alleged genocide of farmers.

In Thursday's post, X's account said a legal challenge to the current order is pending. "Consistent with our position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian govt's blocking orders remains pending. We have also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions in accordance with our policies."

X said it is making the disclosure as it doesn't want its users to feel that its actions have been arbitrary. "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."

Edited By: Puja Mahanta
Published On: Feb 23, 2024