The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordered a ban on 35 YouTube channels, two websites, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account that were operating from Pakistan and spreading “anti-India disinformation”, the Ministry said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Apurva Chandra said the order was issued on Thursday using emergency powers under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 . He said the intermediaries, including YouTube, were in the process of blocking the channels, something which takes around 24 hours. Terming it a “war of misinformation against the country”, Mr. Chandra said the latest channels to be blocked were the second set, after 20 were blocked in December 2021. He said the content was against the sovereignty of the country.
The Ministry played some of the videos from the channels in question at the briefing, including one claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for the helicopter crash that killed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in December and one that said the North Korean army had reached Ladakh.
These channels had a total subscriber base of 1.2 crore and 130 views, Mr. Chandra said. He said the order was issued after the Ministry received inputs from intelligence agencies on Thursday itself. Joint secretary Vikram Sahay, who is the officer authorised under the IT Act, said orders had been issued to the social media companies and the internet service providers to block.
Mr. Sahay said the channels spread “anti-India” content with a focus on the Indian armed forces, Jammu and Kashmir, India’s foreign relations, the death of Gen. Rawat, separatist ideology and public order, which attracted the provision of Section 69-A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (power to issue directions to block information through computer resource).
In a statement, the Ministry said the blocked channels included ‘Khabar with Facts’, ‘Global Truth’, ‘Information Hub’, ‘Apni Duniya TV’ and ‘Khoji TV’. The blocked sites were White News and DNow, whose YouTube channels were also blocked.
“The 35 accounts blocked by the Ministry were all operating from Pakistan, and were identified to be part of four coordinated disinformation networks. These include the Apni Duniya Network operating 14 YouTube channels, and Talha Films Network operating 13 YouTube channels. A set of four channels, and a set of two other channels were also found to be acting in synchronization with each other,” the Ministry said.
Mr. Chandra called on intermediaries and the public to act against such channels, while saying that the Ministry would continue to act.