The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting blocked 35 YouTube channels, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts, two websites and a Facebook account, it said on Friday. The ministry said that the accounts were operated from Pakistan and spreading “anti-India disinformation”, reported The Hindu.
Indian intelligence agencies, which were monitoring the social media accounts, had flagged the accounts to the ministry. The Centre issued orders under using emergency powers under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to block the accounts on Thursday, after receiving the information, The Indian Express reported.
“All these networks appeared to be operated with a single goal of spreading fake news oriented towards the Indian audience,” The Indian Express quoted the ministry as saying.
Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Apurva Chandra, at a press briefing, said the channels were “very, very toxic”, and had over 1.2 crore subscribers in total. “It was sort of a war against the country,” Chandra said. “War of misinformation.”
He added that they were part of “four coordinated disinformation networks”, including 14 YouTube accounts under Apni Duniya Network, and 13 under Talha Films Network.
He said the content on the accounts was on topics including the recent death of former Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, the armed forces, Jammu and Kashmir, “separatist ideas”, and India’s foreign relations. Chandra played some of the content in question, including a video claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behind Rawat’s helicopter crash, The Hindu reported.
These channels had collected views of over 130 crore.
“The popularity of the channels is visible through the fact that they had a total of 1.2 crore subscribers and over 130 crore views,” India Today quoted Joint Secretary Vikram Sahay as saying. “Of course, it [blocking] is a very difficult task but the ministry is trying its best to ensure that anti-India content can be curtailed.”
In December, the Centre had blocked 20 YouTube channels and two websites for the same reasons. Fifteen of the 20 accounts were part of a group operated out of Pakistan. The ministry had said that that most of the content of these channels pertained to “subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security and are factually incorrect”.