The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has utilised the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021, to block eight YouTube based news channels, one Facebook account, and two Facebook posts. The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 114 crore, and were subscribed by over 85 lakh users.
According to the ministry, the purpose of the content published by some of these YouTube channels was to spread hatred among religious communities in India. False claims were made in various videos of the blocked YouTube channels. Examples include fake news such as the Government of India to have ordered demolition of religious structures; Government of India to have banned celebration of religious festivals, declaration of religious war in India, etc. Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order in the country, the ministry stated.
Furthermore, the YouTube channels were also found to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. The content was observed to be false and sensitive from the perspective of national security and India’s friendly relations with foreign States.
The content blocked by the Ministry was found to be detrimental to sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, India’s friendly relations with foreign States, and public order in the country. Accordingly, the content was covered within the ambit of section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Moreover, the government stated that the blocked Indian YouTube channels were observed to be using fake and sensational thumbnails, images of news anchors and logos of certain TV news channels to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic.
All the YouTube channels blocked by the Ministry were displaying advertisements on their videos having false content detrimental to communal harmony, public order and India’s foreign relations.
With this action, since December 2021, the Ministry has issued directions for blocking 102 YouTube based news channels and several other social media accounts.