The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered the blocking of 35 YouTube channels and two websites which broadcast anti-Indian propaganda and spread false information “in a coordinated manner”.
The ministry also issued blocking orders to two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account involved in spreading “coordinated anti-India disinformation”.
All of these YouTube channels, websites and social media accounts were operated from Pakistan to spread “anti-Indian fake news and other content on sensitive topics”.
“We used the provision of Section 69 A of the IT Act to block these channels under the emergency provisions as their content was totally toxic and against the sovereignty of India, a kind of disinformation war against the country (India),” Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Apurva Chandra said at a press conference on Friday.
To block Pakistan-based social media accounts and websites, five separate orders have been issued under Rule 16 of the Information Technology Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Media Code of Ethics digital) to the respective intermediaries, Internet service providers and the Department of Telecommunications.
Chandra said Indian intelligence agencies were “closely monitoring” these social media accounts and websites, and reported them to the ministry for immediate action.
The orders were issued on Thursday, he added.
The 35 YouTube accounts, which were operated from Pakistan, had a total subscriber base of over 1.20 crore and their videos had over 130 crore views, the I&B secretary said.
Responding to questions from reporters, he said Indian intelligence agencies are “now aware of this issue” and that more such channels would be blocked in the coming days.
He also called on people to report to the government if they find any YouTube channel, website or social media account spreading anti-India propaganda.
“We will take action,” he said.
It comes days after 20 YouTube channels and two websites were blocked for spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news over a directive issued by the ministry in December last year.
I&B Minister Anurag Thakur had warned on Wednesday that the government would continue to take such measures against these “conspiracies” against the country.
The ministry said the 35 YouTube accounts ordered blocked on Thursday were identified as part of “four coordinated disinformation networks”.
These include the Apni Duniya network which operates 14 YouTube channels and the Talha Films network which operates 13 YouTube channels.
“A set of four channels and a set of two other channels were also found to act in sync with each other,” he said in a statement.
All of these networks “appeared” to be operated with “one purpose” to spread false information aimed at the Indian public, the ministry said.
“The channels that were part of a network used common hashtags and editing styles. They were operated by regular people who cross-promoted each other’s content. Pakistani television news,” he added. noted.
The ministry said YouTube channels, websites and social media accounts ordered blocked were used by Pakistan to spread fake anti-Indian news on sensitive topics such as the Indian military. , Jammu and Kashmir and India’s foreign relations with other countries.
“It has been observed that creeping fake news has been spread on YouTube channels regarding the death of Chief of the Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat,” the ministry said.
These YouTube channels had also started posting content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states. It said.
“They propagated content to encourage separatism, divide India along lines of religion and create animosity between different sections of Indian society.
It was feared that such information had the potential to incite the public to commit crimes undermining public order in the country, the ministry added.
The ministry secretary hopes that YouTube will block access to channels worldwide as it did last time following the ministry’s order to block 20 anti-Indian channels.
Responding to questions, he said the role of intermediaries is “important” in checking the spread of fake news and misinformation on the internet and suggested they create some mechanisms to identify such accounts and block them.
“We received a good response from the intermediary. Last time they blocked the (20) YouTube channels globally, taking action within 24 hours. We expect them to have a system in place so that things like this don’t happen. find a way… They should have a system that flags these channels,” he said.