In a closely coordinated effort between intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Ministry on Monday ordered the blocking of 20 channels on YouTube and two websites spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news on the internet.
In two separate orders—one for 20 YouTube channels directing YouTube, and the other for two news websites—the Ministry asked the Department of Telecom to direct the internet service providers for blocking the news channels/portals. The channels and websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India. 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, The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a press release on Tuesday.
The modus operandi of the anti-India disinformation campaign involved The Naya Pakistan Group (NPG), operating from Pakistan, having a network of YouTube channels, and some other standalone YouTube channels not related to NPG, the release said. The channels had a combined subscriber base of over 35 lakh, 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 read.
These YouTube channels had also posted content on issues such as the farmers’ protest, protests related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and tried to incite the 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 has acted to secure the information space in India and utilised emergency powers under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. This is the first time the ministry has issued such directions under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules notified on 25 February this year, which empower the government to block access to news content under section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act.
Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur on Tuesday said that the government has taken action against websites spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news. “All efforts are being made from across the border to create fear and to spread myth in the country. The action was taken against YouTube channels and websites for spreading anti-India propaganda and fake news. Action has been taken against around 20 YouTube channels being rung by Naya Pakistan Group (NPG). YouTube channels and websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India,” said the Union Minister.