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Indian government directs X to block accounts critical of its policies

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  • 3 min read

Photo: Bluecat_stock / Shutterstock.com

Earlier this week, several X accounts were notified that their tweets are being withheld following a “legal removal demand from the Government of India”, and the social media platform has confirmed that these posts and accounts will be withheld in India but will continue to be accessible globally.

While X has suspended the accounts in India, the platform says it disagrees with the decision as it curbs the freedom of expression.

“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,” tweeted X’s government affairs handle.

X notified the affected users with a notice as per the platform’s policies.

On February 19, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) ordered social media platforms to ban 177 accounts posting in favour of the farmer protests happening near the Delhi NCR borders, especially Singhu, and Shambhu border near Ambala. The accounts are directed to be restored after the protest dies down.

These include 35 Facebook links and the same number of Facebook accounts, 14 Instagram accounts, 42 X accounts along with 49 X links, 1 Snapchat and 1 Reddit account.

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The government based the order on Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000.

The government took the help of Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000, which allows the Central government to direct any agency to ” block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.”

Failure by the platform or an agency to do so will attract a jail term of up to seven years, alongwith a fine.

The reasons mentioned in the Act are as follows:

  • In the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India
  • Defence of India
  • Security of the State
  • Friendly relations with foreign states
  • Public order
  • Preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to the above points

This is not the first time the Indian government has resorted to Section 69A of the IT Act. During the 2021 farmer protests, the government blocked several social media accounts. At that time, X challenged the order in Karnataka High Court but eventually lost the case.

“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,” said the X team.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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