• Monday, October 02, 2023


Modi government’s X war gets intense; social media platform called ‘habitual non-compliant’

The Indian government made a court filing recently in response to an appeal by the US company in the southern state of Karnataka.

(L-R) The logo of X, formerly called Twitter (Photo Illustration by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIA’s Narendra Modi government has accused X Corp, formerly called Twitter, of being a “habitual non-compliant platform” in a court filing made recently.

According to the government, “X-Corp does not follow the law of the land” and added that this lowered “the authority of the law, judicial and executive”.

The document, which the BBC accessed, was filed by the government following an appeal by X in a court in Karnataka, a state in south India.

The US-based platform is appealing against a recent order made by the high court dismissing its challenge to many government orders to block certain posts and accounts. The court had also imposed a fine of Rs 5 million (£48,450) for not complying with many of such order for more than a year.

The court asked X to give half of the penalty amount — Rs 2.5 million — and put a stay on the rest till further orders.

In a court filing last month in a response to X’s appeal, the government said that the court should turn down the company’s demands. Details around the filing became public after Reuters reported the story earlier this week.

According to the government’s filing, all its blocking orders were given following legal procedures and in the interest of the country’s sovereignty and security. It said on several instances, X either did not follow its blocking orders for a long period or unblocked accounts and tweets for “unknown” reasons after blocking them.

It said this was a deliberate non-compliance and an “abetment to offenses of publishing prohibited content”.

The government also said that X, by filing the petition, has tried to “exert pressure upon the government” while not complying with its orders. It said while India has millions of X users who post tweets, it is not seeking blocking each and every post, the BBC report added.

The south Asian nation has been increasingly asking X to block content. Last year, it blocked 3,417 Twitter URLs. In 2014, the number was only eight.

Former X CEO Jack Dorsey claimed that the Indian government had asked it to remove several tweets and accounts linked to the 2020 farmers’ protest and censor journalists critical of the government. He also said that the Indian government had threatened to close the platform and raid houses of its employees in India.

The government denied the allegations and counter accused the company of violating local laws.

X and the Indian government have been at loggerheads for the past few years and the latter said the company risked losing its intermediary status and “safe harbour” protection that is legally provided.

“Habitually, the Appellant platform [X] ensures compliance only after the court warns it of action/consequences for non-compliance,” the Indian government said in its affidavit.

Under Elon Musk who took over Twitter last year and renamed it X, the latter has complied with takedown orders.

After a meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi in the US in June, Musk said the company was bound to “obey local government laws” or it would risk getting shut.

This is the first case of a social media company suing the Indian government over its takedown orders.

Rights activists have, meanwhile, criticised the Indian government’s content blocking orders for being opaque.

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