X has a consistency problem when it comes to government orders

  • After rallying against Brazil last week, X quietly complied with an order to withhold posts from elected politicians, political parties and candidates for office in India.
  • Pakistan also confirmed this week that it had blocked access to X because it failed to police its platform and uphold the country’s laws.
  • These three matters highlight how inconsistent X is when it comes to enforcing its rules in other countries.

Elon Musk may love free speech but in running one of the more popular social networks, the billionaire appears to be learning that maybe that direction doesn’t fly in other parts of the world.

Upon taking ownership of Twitter and turning it into X, Musk and the platform adopted a “freedom of speech not freedom of reach” policy. Essentially, as long as content doesn’t break any laws, it will remain on the platform.

The trouble with this approach to content moderation on a global platform is that not all countries have laws protecting freedom of speech and as such, X needs to backtrack on its policy. This very often leads to big statements about free speech and government overreach in some countries but not others.

Case in point – India.

On Tuesday X’s Global Government Affairs posted news of takedown orders issued by India.

“The Election Commission of India has issued takedown orders requiring X to act on posts containing political speech shared from elected politicians, political parties and candidates for office. In compliance with the orders, we have withheld these posts for the remainder of the election period; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts and political speech in general,” the X division wrote.

What strikes us as odd is that Musk never decried how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was overstepping or breaking the laws in India. The country does have laws that protect freedom of expression but there are limitations in that regard.

Juxtaposed against Musk’s disdain for taking action against accounts as ordered by the Supreme Court in Brazil, one starts to become slightly confused.

For more than a week Musk railed against Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes who ordered X to block certain accounts. These accounts reportedly spread fake news and hate speech, in violation of Brazil’s laws but Musk took umbrage to this order.

“Coming shortly, 𝕏 will publish everything demanded by @Alexandre and how those requests violate Brazilian law,” Musk posted. “This judge has brazenly and repeatedly betrayed the constitution and people of Brazil. He should resign or be impeached.”

X attempted to appeal the decision from De Moraes arguing that the orders it received were not in line with the Marco Civil Law or the Brazilian Federal Constitution. But those appeals seemingly went nowhere as this week X reportedly bowed to De Moraes’ order and took action against the accounts the justice highlighted.

Early this morning an investor shared details of the accounts that X was ordered to take action against. We can’t verify the authenticity of this list nor can we explain why an investor was sharing this information and not an official X account. It also doesn’t help that the information comes from a source with questionable integrity.

In Mario Nawfal’s so-called Brazil X Files, the investor shares snippets of documents in which De Moraes justified why accounts need to be removed. There are several mentions of Duna Press which carries the news you would expect. However, you will also find anti-vaccine rhetoric, medical misinformation, and American far-right propaganda on the site as well.

All tolled, Nawfal’s content doesn’t do much to prove that Brazil’s judiciary is overreaching its mandate.

While the situations in India and Brazil are different (Brazil ordered a total ban while India was fine with content being hidden until the elections) to us the matters are too similar to ignore. Boiled down to its simplest components, X is going against its core value of freedom of speech.

This shouldn’t be surprising to anybody given that the definition of freedom of speech differs from country to country, a fact X has seemingly been blind to until now.

Of course, the “freedom of speech not freedom of reach” policy was never going to stand up to legal muster in most countries where X is available especially in countries where spreading harmful content under the guise of freedom of speech can land one in trouble.

This week the Pakistan government confirmed that it had blocked access to X after the platform failed to adhere to local laws.

“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” the Ministry of the Interior in Pakistan was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the Ministry said adding that X was reluctant to resolve the issue.

The problem here is consistency. Why did Musk attack De Moraes and not Moti? Is it that Musk’s other businesses could be at risk of being booted from India if he takes action on X that goes against the government’s wishes? Why has X been so reluctant to comply with Pakistan’s orders but so quick to take action with its immediate geographic neighbour?

While we understand that rules on social media will vary from location to location, that is seemingly a lesson X is still learning and until it learns this lesson, jarring inconsistencies in how the rules are applied and who Musk takes issue with will continue.

This is problematic when the owner of the company touts freedom of speech for all as a key benefit of X only for users who take him up on that offer ultimately being targeted by governments and potentially landing up in prison.


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