The Centre on Monday blocked 16 YouTube channels, including six operating from Pakistan, and a Facebook account for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security, foreign relations and public order, according to an official statement.
The blocked YouTube channels and the Facebook account had a cumulative viewership of over 68 crore (680 million) and were spreading “false, unverified information to create panic, incite communal disharmony and disturb public order in India”, the statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said.
“None of the digital news publishers had furnished information to the ministry as required under Rule 18 of the IT Rules, 2021,” it added.
The ministry said the content published by some of the blocked India-based YouTube channels referred to the members of a particular community as terrorists and incited hatred among various religious communities.
“Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order,” it said.
The ministry said multiple India-based YouTube channels were publishing unverified news and videos that had the potential to trigger panic among various sections of the society.
“Examples include false claims related to announcement of a pan-India lockdown due to COVID-19, thereby threatening the migrant workers, and fabricated claims alleging threats to certain religious communities etc. Such content was observed to be detrimental to public order in the country,” it said.
According to the ministry, the blocked YouTube channels based in Pakistan were found to have been used in a coordinated manner to post fake news about India on various subjects such as the Army, Jammu and Kashmir and foreign relations in the light of the situation in war-hit Ukraine.
“The content of these channels was observed to be completely false and sensitive from the perspective of national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, and India’s friendly relations with foreign States,” the ministry said.
The ministry issued an advisory to private television news channels last week, cautioning them against making false claims and using scandalous headlines.
The blocked YouTube channels include MRF TV LIVE, Saini Education Research, Tahaffuz-e-Deen India and SBB News.
The channels based in Pakistan include AjTak Pakistan, Discover Point, Reality Checks and The Voice of Asia.
On Saturday last the MIB had issued a warning to Indian TV news channels to not flout the stipulations of the Cable TV (Networks) Regulations Act by airing sensational and unconfirmed news that could upset the general societal harmony in the country.
“It has…been found that in the recent past several Satellite TV channels have carried out coverage of events and incidents in a manner, which appears to be unauthentic, misleading, sensational and using socially unacceptable language and remarks, offending good taste and decency, and obscene and defamatory and having communal overtones, all of which appear to be violative of the Programme Code and infringement of the provisions of sub-section (2) of Section 20 of the aforementioned Act,” the earlier MIB advisory observed.
It added: “The Government expresses serious concern about the manner in which the television channels have gone about their operations in the matter of transmitting content and are hereby strongly advised to immediately refrain from publishing and transmitting any content which is violative of the aforementioned provisions of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules thereunder.”