The Centre on Thursday issued orders to block eight YouTube-based news channels, including one operating from Pakistan, for allegedly spreading “false content detrimental to communal harmony, public order and India’s foreign relations”, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry stated on Thursday.
The blocked channels had a cumulative viewership of more than 114 crore and were subscribed by over 85 lakh users, the ministry said in a statement.
Besides Pakistan-based ‘News ki Dunya’ (97,000 subscribers), the YouTube channels blocked — all originating from India — are Loktantra TV (12.90 lakh subscribers), U&V TV (10.20 lakh subscribers), AM Razvi (95,900 subscribers), Gouravshali Pawan Mithilanchal (7 lakh subscribers), Sarkari Update (80,900 subscribers), SeeTop5TH (33.5 lakh), and Sab Kuch Dekho (19.40 lakh subscribers).
The ministry said the Facebook page of Loktantra TV has been blocked, and two “inflammatory posts” on “personal Facebook accounts” have been taken down for posting “fake anti-India content”,.
According to screenshots circulated by the I&B Ministry of reports by these channels, while Pakistan-based ‘News ki Dunya’ claimed that Muslims in India have been asked to go to Pakistan or Bangladesh, an Indian channel, Loktantra TV, claimed that the government had banned Bakrid celebrations in the country.
The blocked Indian YouTube channels were observed to be using “fake and sensational thumbnails”, and using images of news anchors and logos of certain TV news channels to “mislead viewers” and pass off their content as authentic news, the ministry stated.
Since December 2021, the I&B Ministry has issued directions to block 102 YouTube channels and several other social media accounts. The ministry stated that such “corrective action will be taken from time to time”.
Ministry officials said action will be taken against the channels which monetise such content.
According to the ministry, these YouTube channels posted such content to spread hatred among religious communities in India. It said false claims were made in many videos, and cited examples such as content uploaded that alleged that the government had banned celebration of religious festivals, that the US had passed a resolution against India, and an alleged “religious war” had been declared in India.
Stating that such content was found to have the “potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country”, the ministry used emergency powers under IT Rules, 2021, and issued orders for blocking such channels and content on August 16.