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Why govt has blocked 16 YouTube ‘news’ channels from India & Pakistan in 2nd crackdown in a month

The YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of 68 crore. Earlier this month, government issued orders for blocking another 22 'YouTube news channels'.

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New Delhi: For the second time in a month, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has blocked several “YouTube news channels” from India as well as Pakistan for spreading “fake news”. In a statement released Monday, the government said that, of the 16 blocked YouTube channels, 10 were from India and six from Pakistan. One Facebook page was also blocked.

The I&B Ministry, in its statement, said the channels, which had a cumulative viewership of 68 crore, were promoting false information on matters related to “national security, India’s foreign relations, communal harmony in the country, and public order”.

The ministry also provided several examples of offending headlines, some translated from Urdu, including, “Germany demands sanctions on India”, “Saudi announces to stop oil export to India, “America demands Kashmir from India”, “Thousands of Taliban militants infiltrate India”, and so on.

This marks the second time that the government has invoked emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 — introduced in February last year — to block “YouTube news channels”.

The first occasion was earlier this month, when the government issued orders for blocking 22 “YouTube news channels” (18 Indian and four Pakistani), three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and one news website for spreading disinformation related to India’s national security and foreign relations.

Prior to this, the government had blocked 20 YouTube channels in December and another 35 in January this year for their “anti-India propaganda”.

Last week, the I&B Ministry also advised private TV news channels to stop making unverified claims and using “scandalous headlines”.

Also Read: ‘India to be nuked’, ‘drops 750 bombs in Pakistan’: What made govt block 22 YouTube channels

Misinformation about Covid, ‘threats to communities’

The I&B Ministry in its statement listed out the specific types of infractions that led to the Indian and Pakistani channels being blocked.

Some of the Indian channels in question, the ministry said, published content that “referred to a community as terrorists” and thus were found to have the potential to disturb communal harmony. Others published “false claims” about an upcoming all-India lockdown due to rising Covid numbers and “fabricated” allegations that there were “threats to certain Indian communities.

The Pakistani channels, meanwhile, “were found to have been used in a coordinated manner to post fake news about India”, the ministry’s statement said. This fake news extended to various topics, including the Indian Army, Jammu & Kashmir, and “India’s foreign relations in light of the situation in Ukraine”.

One Urdu channel from Pakistan also claimed “Turkey destroys India’s S400 defense system” and “Consecutive attack on Indian army, 24 states may be separated”.

The blocked channels

The blocked Indian channels together had over 25 lakh subscribers and collective views of more than 42 crore. They comprised Defence News24x7, SBB News, Latest Update, Aaj Te News, Technical Yogendra, Hindi Mein Dekho, MRF TV LIVE, The Study Time, Saini Education Research, and Tahaffuz-E-Deen India.

Pakistan’s blocked channels had more than 17 lakh subscribers and had racked up 26 crore total views. They included AjTak Pakistan, Discover Point, Reality Checks, Kaiser Khan, The Voice of Asia, and Bol Media Bol.

With its latest action, the government has, since December 2021, blocked over 90 YouTube channels and several other social media accounts on grounds such as posing a threat to national security and public order.

Earlier this month, an I&B Ministry official had told ThePrint that intelligence agencies “monitor the national security aspect of news”, but that there was a need for a more “permanent solution” since problematic accounts kept popping up.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: ‘Blatant censorship’ — Press Club complains of ‘restrictions’ on media in Parliament


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