India Blocks 22 YouTube Channels for Spreading Fake News

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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has shut down 22 YouTube channels for allegedly propagating false information about India’s national security and foreign policy. 18 Indian YouTube news channels, as well as four Pakistan-based YouTube news channels, have been blocked for the first time under the IT Rules, 2021.

According to a ministry ruling published on Monday, these YouTube channels misled viewers by using TV news channel logos and fake thumbnails.

Three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and one news website were also shut down.

“These outlets were involved in disseminating false material that harmed India’s sovereignty, national security, and international relations.” They were disseminating false information regarding the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. On Tuesday, Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur remarked, “We will not hesitate to take such steps in the future.”

“On April 4, 2022, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued orders for the blocking of twenty-two (22) YouTube-based news channels, three (3) Twitter accounts, one (1) Facebook account, and one (1) news website, exercising emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021.” The restricted YouTube channels “were used to promote fake news and coordinated disinformation across social media on matters sensitive from the standpoint of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order,” the ministry said in a statement.

ARP News has 4.4 crore subscribers, followed by AOP News with 74 lakh subscribers, and LDC News with 4.7 lakh subscribers, among the restricted channels in India.

‘Duniya Mery Aagy’ had 4.2 lakh subscribers and over 11.2 crore views, ‘Ghulam Nabi Madni’ had over 37.09 lakh views, and ‘HAQEEQAT TV’ had over 40 lakh followers, according to the prohibited Pakistani YouTube channels.

The government has blocked all Pakistan-based Twitter accounts associated with the same YouTube channels that have been blocked, including ‘Ghulam Nabi Madni, which has 5,553 followers, ‘Dunya Mery Aagy,’ which has 4,063 followers (the channel’s Facebook page has also been banned), and ‘Haqeeqat TV,’ which has 3,23,800 followers.

Multiple YouTube channels, according to the government, were used to spread fake news about a variety of topics, including the Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir. Certain “anti-India” content posted from various social media accounts run in a coordinated manner from Pakistan was ordered to be blocked, according to the report.

According to screenshots given by the ministry, the channels broadcasted bogus headlines about India’s involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, fake announcements about a national shutdown in India, and fake headlines about foreign attacks on India.

“A substantial volume of fraudulent content was seen by these Indian YouTube-based channels relating to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at harming India’s foreign relations with other countries,” the ministry added.
On national security grounds, the I&B Ministry has issued orders to restrict 78 YouTube-based news stations and many other social media accounts since December 2021.

“The blocked Indian YouTube channels used themes and logos from some TV news programs, as well as photographs of their news anchors, to deceive viewers into believing that the content was genuine.” To promote the virality of content on social media, false thumbnails were utilized, and the title and thumbnail of the videos were regularly changed. The ministry further warned that “in some cases, systematic anti-India fake news was flowing from Pakistan.”

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