The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, utilizing the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021, has issued orders for blocking 22 YouTube-based news channels, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and one news website for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security and foreign relations.
A statement issued by the ministry said, “The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 260 crore, and were used to spread fake news, and coordinated disinformation over social media on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order.” As per the ministry, this is the first time action has been taken on the Indian YouTube-based news publishers since the notification of the IT Rules, 2021 in February last year. Through the recent blocking order, 18 Indian and four Pakistan based YouTube news channels have been blocked, said the ministry.
The ministry stated that multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. The content ordered to be blocked also included certain anti-India content posted from multiple social media accounts operated in a coordinated manner from Pakistan.
It was observed that a significant amount of false content published by these Indian YouTube-based channels related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries, stated the ministry.
The blocked Indian YouTube channels were using templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic. False thumbnails were used, and the title and thumbnail of the videos were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media. In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan.
With this action, since December 2021, the Ministry has issued directions for blocking of 78 YouTube-based news channels and several other social media accounts on grounds related to national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, etc.
“The Government of India remains committed to ensuring an authentic, trustworthy, and safe online news media environment, and thwart any attempts at undermining India’s sovereignty and integrity, national security, foreign relations, and public order,” added the ministry.