New Delhi, Jan 21
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered the blocking of 35 YouTube news channels operated from Pakistan along with two websites for their involvement in spreading anti-India fake news in a coordinated manner on digital media platforms.
In a statement, the ministry said that the YouTube accounts blocked by the Ministry had a total subscriber base of over 1.20 crore and their videos had garnered over 130 crore views.
Additionally, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account have also been blocked by the government for being involved in spreading coordinated anti-India disinformation over the internet.
The ministry vide five separate orders issued under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has ordered to block these Pakistan-based social media accounts and websites.
"Indian intelligence agencies were closely monitoring these social media accounts and websites, and flagged them to the ministry for immediate action," it said.
The 35 YouTube accounts blocked by the ministry were all being operated from Pakistan, and were identified to be part of four coordinated disinformation networks. These include the Apni Duniya Network operating 14 YouTube channels, and and Talha Films Network operating 13 YouTube channels.
A set of four channels, and a set of two other channels, were also found to be acting in synchronisation with each other.
According to the ministry, all these networks appeared to be operated with a single goal of spreading fake news oriented towards the Indian audience. The channels which were part of a network used common hashtags and editing styles, and were being operated by common persons who cross promoted each other's content.
The YouTube channels, websites, and other social media accounts blocked by the ministry were used by Pakistan for spreading anti-India fake news about sensitive subjects related to India.
These include topics such as the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir, and India's relations with other countries.
It was observed that rampant fake news was spread through the YouTube channels regarding the demise of the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat. These YouTube channels had also started posting content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states.
The channels propagated content to encourage separatism, divide India on the lines of religion, and create animosity among the various sections of the Indian society, the ministry said.
Such information was feared to have the potential to incite the audience into commission of crimes adversely affecting public order in the country.
The action taken by the government follows the blocking of 20 YouTube channels and two websites in December last year when the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 were first utilised to act against anti-India fake news networks.