The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued orders to block several YouTube channels under provisions of the IT Rules, 2021 for spreading disinformation over India’s national security and foreign relations. With this, the number of YouTube channels blocked by the Indian government since December 2021 reaches 78. Apart from 22 YouTube channels, the ministry has also ordered the blocking of three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and one news website for anti-India content. As per the ministry, this is the first time action has been taken on Indian YouTube-based news publishers since the notification of the IT Rules, 2021.
A statement by the I&B ministry said that the blocked YouTube channels that had a combined viewership of over 260 crores were used for spreading fake news on sensitive topics like national security and India’s foreign policy. The statement read, “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.” The ministry observed that a significant amount of content published by these publishers was aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries over the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The press release by the I&B ministry also said that the content ordered to be blocked included anti-India content posted from Pakistan in a coordinated manner. “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,” read the press release.
Allegations against the blocked YouTube channels also include using templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors, to mislead viewers.