Social media platform X on Thursday stated that although it is complying with the Indian government’s orders to withhold some accounts and posts, it disagrees with the action.

The Centre had recently ordered the temporary blocking of around 177 social media accounts and web links related to the ongoing farmers’ protest, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday. The orders, issued on February 14 and February 19, were applicable on Facebook, Instagram, X, Snapchat and some other social media platforms.

Among those whose accounts were blocked were farmer leaders, including Sarvan Singh Pandher, Tejveer Singh Ambala, Ramandeep Singh Mann, Surjit Singh Phull and Harpal Sangha. The X accounts of journalists Sandeep Singh and Mandeep Punia, who were reporting on the farmers’ protest, were also withheld.

On Thursday, the Global Government Affairs team of X stated that the social media platform maintains that “freedom of expression should extend to these posts”.

“Consistent with our position, a writ appeal challenging the Indian government's blocking orders remains pending,” it said. “We have also provided the impacted users with notice of these actions in accordance with our policies.”

The team said it was unable to publish the government’s executive orders due to legal restrictions but believes that making them public is essential for transparency.

“This lack of disclosure can lead to a lack of accountability and arbitrary decision-making,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages gurudwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, also raised concerns over the Centre asking X to withhold two of its posts.

Farmers’ protest

The farmers are pressing for a law guaranteeing a minimum support price for agricultural commodities. A minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce.

Their other demands include the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission Report’s recommendations on farming in India, which say that the minimum support price should be raised to at least 50% above the weighted average cost of production incurred by farmers.

They have also demanded a pension scheme for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waivers, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, India’s withdrawal from the World Trade Organization and compensation for families of farmers who died during the previous farmers’ protests in 2020-’21.

In February 2021 as well, the government asked X, which was named Twitter at the time, to remove hundreds of accounts that criticised the Centre over its handling of the large-scale farmer protests, which started in November 2020. The agitation at the time was against three agriculture-related laws that the protestors feared would make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime.

The social media platform initially refused, but eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time. The laws were repealed in December 2021.

In July 2022, the company dragged the Indian government to court, challenging 39 orders to take down content from the social media site, including posts and handles linked to the farmers’ protest. The petition was dismissed by a single bench of the Karnataka High Court.

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