X factor: On the X appeal in the Karnataka High Court

Courts must act against governments issuing blocking orders on social media content

Unfortunately, X, ever since Elon Musk’s takeover, has not been publishing its transparency reports that indicate the number of legal requests made by Indian state agencies to block, take down content or accounts. By admitting that it has decided to withhold accounts and posts flagged by the government, even if it disagreed with these actions, X was giving up any recourse for its users affected by these actions. This is not unexpected; X under Mr. Musk is no longer a thriving platform for free speech that strives to promote discussion, information-sharing and even critique of governments. It now takes its cue from the views and business interests of its owner. But it is even more worrisome that the extant judgment in the Karnataka High Court has given credence to the idea that government authorities enjoy a wide berth in issuing content blocking orders without the need to provide notices to the originators of the content or even seeking account-level blocking without valid reasoning. It is hoped that X’s appeal in the High Court will definitively clarify the rights and obligations of social media companies over content on its platforms. As for the government, it does not seem to be concerned at all about what such actions mean to India’s reputation as a free, open and democratic society, a key reason for social media companies to operate in the country, beyond just the presence of a large consumer base.