The ministry of information and broadcasting on Tuesday ordered the blocking of 20 YouTube channels on social media and 2 websites spreading “anti-India propaganda” and fake news on the internet.
The Centre issued two separate orders – one for 20 YouTube channels directing YouTube, and the other for 2 news websites, requesting the telecom department to direct the internet service providers for blocking the news channels/portals.
“The channels and websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India,” the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said in a statement.
“These channels were used to post divisive content in a coordinated manner on topics like Kashmir, Indian Army, minority communities in India, Ram Mandir, General Bipin Rawat, etc,” it added. The YouTube channels had a combined subscriber base of over 35 lakhs. Their videos had also over 55 crore views.
“The modus operandi of the anti-India disinformation campaign involved The Naya Pakistan Group (NPG), operating from Pakistan, having a network of YouTube channels, and some other standalone YouTube channels not related to NPG,” the Centre said.
The ministry further noted that these YouTube channels had also posted content on issues such as the farmers’ protest, protests related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and “tried to incite the minorities against the government.“
“It was also feared that these YouTube channels would be used to post content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states,” the ministry said.
In February this year, Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar and Ravi Shankar Prasad had announced drastic changes in the new legal rules for social media companies and a code of ethics for OTT (over the top) streaming platforms as well as digital news media.
A YouTube channel named ‘Naya Pakistan Global’ had 7 lakh subscribers and over 9 crore views. It was spreading misinformation about the Babri Masjid controversy. It was also spreading misinformation about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and late Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, as per the government.
Another channel, titled ‘Punjab Viral,’ has been taken down over a number of contentious videos, including two titled ‘The Khalistan Movement became a nightmare for Modi’ and ‘The Sikhs Hoist Flag over Indian Parliament.’ The channel had over 14 lakh views.
Other YouTube channels that have been blocked include The Punch Line, International Web News, Khalsa TV, The Naked Truth, 48 News, Fictional, Historical Facts, Cover Story, Go Global, eCommerce, Junaid Haleem Official, Tayyab Hanif, Zain Ali Official, Mohsin Rajput, Official, Kaneez Fatima, Sadaf Durrani, Mian Imran, Ahmad, Najam Ul Hassan, Bajwa, and News24.