The information and broadcasting ministry on Tuesday said in a “closely coordinated” effort with intelligence agencies, it has ordered blocking of 20 YouTube channels and two websites as they were spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news.
On Monday, the ministry issued two orders, one directing YouTube to block the 20 channels and the other, for blocking of the news websites.
“The channels and the websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India,” the information and broadcasting ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Read more: MediaTek chipset-based Android phones vulnerable to hackers: Check Point
The channels were used to post “divisive content in a coordinated manner on topics like Kashmir, Indian army, minority communities in India, Ram Mandir, General Bipin Rawat etc”, it said.
In a video message, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said “strong action” has been taken against 20 YouTube channels and two websites as they were creating an atmosphere of “fear and confusion” in India by running fake news and anti-India contents in violation of Indian laws.
“Action has been taken against them under the IT rules so that the agenda that Pakistan carries out against India (is blunted)… Strict action has been taken against them so that such forces do not work against India,” he said.
The minister also tweeted, “We have taken strict action against cross-border activities aimed to spread unrest in India by way of spreading fake news and propaganda.”
The ministry in its statement said the modus operandi of the anti-India disinformation campaign involved the Naya Pakistan Group (NPG), operating from Pakistan, which has a network of YouTube channels, and some other standalone YouTube channels not related to NPG.
“In a closely coordinated effort between intelligence agencies and the ministry of information and broadcasting, the ministry on Monday ordered blocking of 20 channels on YouTube and two websites spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news on the internet,” it said.
Through two separate orders, “one for 20 YouTube channels directing YouTube, and the other for two news websites, requesting department of telecom to direct the internet service providers for blocking of the news channels/portals”, the statement said.
The ministry shared the list of 20 YouTube channels, ordered to be blocked, along with screen shots of some of the “factually incorrect and anti-India contents” run on them, saying they had a combined subscriber base of over 35 lakh people and their videos had over 55 crore views.
“Some of the YouTube channels of the Naya Pakistan Group (NPG) were being operated by anchors of Pakistani news channels,” it added.
The ministry said that these YouTube channels had posted contents on issues such as the farmers’ protest, protests related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and “also tried to incite minorities against the Government of India.”
“It was also feared that these YouTube channels would be used to post content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states,” it added.
The ministry said it has acted to secure “the information space in India” by ordering blocking of the 20 YouTube channels and two websites, utilising the emergency powers vested in it under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
“Most of the content pertains to subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security and are factually incorrect, and are being mainly posted from Pakistan as a coordinated disinformation network as in the case of the Naya Pakistan Group against India and thus, deemed it fit for action under the provisions to block content in case of emergency,” it added.
Of the 20 YouTube channels, the information and broadcasting minister said 15 were run by the NPG.
The Punch Line, InternationalWeb News, Khalsa TV, The Naked Truth, 48 News, Fictional, Historical Facts, Punjab Viral, Naya Pakistan Global, Cover Story, Go Global eCommerce, Junaid Haleem Official, Tayyab Hanif, Zain Ali Official, Mohsin Rajput Official, Kaneez Fatima, Sadaf Durrani, Mian Imran Ahmad, Najam Ul Hassan Bajwa are among the 20 YouTube channels ordered to be blocked, according to the details shared by the ministry.
Some of the “factually incorrect contents” that these YouTube channels disseminated were: ‘Joe Biden imposed sanctions on Modi as RSS destroyed Christian schools’, ‘PM Modi concedes defeat in Kashmir-Article 370 restored’, ‘200 Indian Army personnel accept Islam in Srinagar’, ‘5000 Assam Muslims join Afghan Talibans’ and ‘Pakistan war jet entered in Kashmir-Beginning of atomic war’, according to the statement.