India’s government has accused Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, of being a “habitual non-compliant platform” that has repeatedly failed to follow orders to remove content. The allegations were made in a non-public legal filing by India’s IT Ministry to a high court in the state of Karnataka. This filing is part of an ongoing legal battle between X and the Indian government, with the social media platform challenging a fine imposed by the government for non-compliance with content removal orders.
According to the IT Ministry’s filing, X has consistently shown a low compliance rate with government requests. It claims that the platform has not only failed to remove content as instructed but has also unblocked accounts that were ordered to be blocked without the government’s knowledge. The ministry argues that X’s actions have undermined the role of the government in a democratic setup and that it is the government’s duty to ensure platforms operate in a legally compliant manner.
The legal battle between X and the Indian government began in 2021 when the platform refused to block certain accounts related to farmer protests against the government’s policies. Since then, the government has issued several content removal orders to X, including requests to take down accounts supporting an independent Sikh state, posts allegedly spreading misinformation about farmer protests, and tweets criticizing the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, the Karnataka High Court fined X 5 million rupees ($60,291) for non-compliance with blocking orders without providing a plausible explanation. X challenged this ruling in a higher court, arguing that it could lead to increased content blocking and censorship. Additionally, X sought the court’s intervention to block the fine. However, in its filing, the IT Ministry argues that X’s plea should be dismissed, accusing the platform of undermining the government’s role and highlighting its history of non-compliance.
India’s government has expressed concerns that X is attempting to judge the merits of government orders, suggesting that allowing this behavior would make all platforms the final arbitrator of lawful orders. The government argues that it has a duty to ensure platforms operate in a legally compliant manner, and X’s actions undermine its authority. The platform itself has not responded to the government’s allegations or the request for comment from Reuters.
The relationship between India and X has been strained for several years, initially stemming from the platform’s refusal to block certain accounts related to farmer protests. With Elon Musk now owning X, the tension has continued to escalate, leading to the current legal battle. It is worth noting that the ongoing lawsuits coincide with Musk’s Tesla discussing plans to establish a factory in India for the production of electric vehicles.
The legal battle between India’s government and Elon Musk’s X has revealed the government’s dissatisfaction with the platform’s compliance with content removal orders. The IT Ministry’s filing accuses X of being a “habitual non-compliant platform” that undermines the government’s role by not following orders and unblocking accounts without permission. India’s government argues that it is its duty to ensure platforms operate legally, while X has yet to respond to the allegations. The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the regulation of social media platforms in India and their relationship with the government.