‘Anti-India’ content: Govt cracks down on 35 YouTube channels

Union minister of information and technology Anurag Thakur said after the Cabinet meeting that any social media account trying to mislead the public would also be taken down.
According to the ministry, the YouTube channels, websites, and other social media accounts blocked were used by “Pakistan for spreading anti-India fake news about sensitive subjects related to India”.(Reuters | Representational Image)
According to the ministry, the YouTube channels, websites, and other social media accounts blocked were used by “Pakistan for spreading anti-India fake news about sensitive subjects related to India”.(Reuters | Representational Image)
Updated on Jan 22, 2022 02:32 AM IST
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ByDeeksha Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The ministry of information and broadcasting issued orders to take down 35 Pakistan-based YouTube channels and two websites for “spreading anti-India fake news in a coordinated manner over digital media”, exercising powers granted to it under the new information and technology rules.

“These channels were toxic and spreading anti-India propaganda,” secretary of information and broadcasting Apurva Chandra said in a press conference. “More and more such channels will continue to be blocked. Not only intelligence agencies, we urge the people to come forward and notify us of (such) content.”

Union minister of information and technology Anurag Thakur said after the Cabinet meeting that any social media account trying to mislead the public would also be taken down. “Any account that is trying to spin a conspiracy or mislead the people will be actioned,” he told reporters.

The channels, according to the ministry, have over 12,123,500 subscribers and over 1,320,426,964 views. They include Khabar with facts, Khabar Taiz, Information Hub, Flash Now, Mera Pakistan With, Hakikat Ki Duniya and Apni Dunya Tv.

“These channels were spreading misinformation about the Indian army, including conspiracies that the death of chief of defence staff Bipin Rawat was an assassination,” said joint secretary in the I&B ministry and the designated officer for take downs, Vikram Sahay. “These threaten the sovereignty and the integrity of India.”

According to the ministry, the YouTube channels, websites, and other social media accounts blocked 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 foreign relations with other countries. It was observed that rampant fake news was spread through the YouTube channels regarding the demise of the former Chief of Defence Staff Late General Bipin Rawat. These YouTube channels had also started posting content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states,” the ministry said in a press release. 

“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. Such information was feared to have the potential to incite the audience into commission of crimes adversely affecting public order in the country.”

The last round of blocks in December 2021 was actioned on a global level, with YouTube taking down the channels across the world and not just in India.

The blocking directions have been issued using the emergency powers granted to the secretary of the I&B ministry, who on being notified by the authorised officer, can order an immediate takedown of content under the new social media and intermediary guidelines. The interim order will be placed in front of the inter-departmental committee for review.

The interdepartmental committee forms the apex of the three-tier redressal mechanism, which includes a self-regulatory mechanism, followed by regulation by industry bodies. 

The committee, in a first, also has members from the industry body — one member each from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and Confederation of Indian Industry, one member from the Bar Council of India and a member from the Press Council of India. 

Besides these, the committee also has members from the ministry of women and child development, ministry of law and justice, ministry of home affairs, ministry of electronics and information technology, ministry of external affairs and ministry of defence.

The guidelines have been challenged by various media consortiums in court for leading to censorship of news content.

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Friday, May 20, 2022