The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered the suspension of 22 YouTube-based news channels, four of which are from Pakistan, for allegedly spreading fake news to mislead viewers. This is the first time action has been taken against India’s YouTube-based news publishers since the IT Rules 2021 were announced in February last year, it said.
In an official statement, the ministry said that on Monday it ordered the suspension of 22 YouTube channels, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account and one news website.
With this measure, since December 2021, the ministry has issued orders to block 78 YouTube-based news channels and several other social media accounts on grounds of national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, etc.
The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 260 million, the ministry said in an official statement, adding that they were spreading fake news and coordinated disinformation through social media on issues affecting national security, India’s foreign relations and the public are sensitive command.
“The latest blocking order blocked 18 Indian and four Pakistani YouTube news channels,” the ministry said, without naming them.
According to the ministry, several YouTube channels have been used to post “fake news on various topics such as Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc.” “The content to be blocked also included certain anti-India content posted by multiple social media accounts coordinated from Pakistan.
“It was observed that a significant amount of false content aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries was published by Indian YouTube channels related to the current situation in Ukraine,” it said.
The ministry said the blocked Indian YouTube channels used templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors, to mislead viewers into believing the news was authentic.
“Incorrect thumbnails were used, video titles and thumbnails were changed frequently to increase the virality of the content on social media. In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news originated from Pakistan,” it said.
“The Government of India remains committed to ensuring an authentic, trustworthy and secure environment for online news media and to thwarting any attempts to undermine India’s sovereignty and integrity, national security, foreign relations and public order,” the ministry said.