The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Monday issued orders for blocking 22 news channels on YouTube, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account and one news website, a statement said.
The order alleged that the YouTube channels, with a cumulative viewership of over 260 crore, were being used to spread fake news and disinformation on India’s national security, foreign relations and public order.
Of the total 22 YouTube channels, 18 are Indian and four are from Pakistan.
“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,” the order stated.
The government was referring to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. It is a sweeping set of regulations for social media companies, streaming plaforms and digital news content. They virtually bring the platforms under the government’s supervision for the first time.
The official statement also said that the YouTube channels were used to allegedly to spread fake news about various topics, including the Indian Armed Forces and Jammu and Kashmir.
“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 said.
Some of the content, the statement said, was related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and aimed at “jeopardising India’s foreign relations with other countries”.
The channels were also allegedly using templates and logos of authentic TV news channels to mislead the viewers.
“False thumbnails were used, and title and thumbnail of the videos were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media,” it said. “In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan.”
With this action, the ministry said it has issued directions on the same grounds to block 78 YouTube-based news channels and some other social media accounts since December.
On February 22, the Centre had ordered to block applications, website and social media accounts of Punjab Politics TV, saying the channel has close links to banned organisation Sikhs For Justice.
It added that the online platforms were allegedly being used to disrupt peace during the Assembly elections in Punjab, which took place on February 20.