The Union government on Monday issued directions for blocking eight YouTube channels and one Facebook account for allegedly spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations and public order.
Of the eight channels, one was being operated from Pakistan, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a press release. The YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of 114 crore and had 85.7 lakh subscribers.
The Centre ordered the blocking of the Facebook page and YouTube channel of Loktantra TV. It also blocked YouTube channels in the name of U&V TV, AM Razvi, Gouravshali Pawan Mithilanchal, SeeTop5TH, Sarkari Update, Sab Kuch Dekho, and Pakistan-based News ki Dunya.
“The purpose of the content published by some of these YouTube channels was to spread hatred among religious communities in India,” the ministry said. “Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country.”
According to the government, the blocked YouTube channels made false claims related to the demolition of religious structures by the Government of India, ban on the celebration of religious festivals, and declaration of religious war in India.
“The blocked Indian YouTube channels were observed to be using fake and sensational thumbnails, images of news anchors and logos of certain TV news channels to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic,” the ministry said.
The Centre issued the directions by using its emergency powers under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, or the IT Rules.
The IT Rules are a sweeping set of regulations for social media companies, streaming platforms and digital news content. They virtually bring the platforms under the government’s supervision for the first time.
On April 25, the government ordered the blocking of 16 YouTube news channels and one Facebook account. Prior to that, 22 YouTube channels were blocked on charges of spreading disinformation on April 5.