Govt. Blocks 22 Youtube-Based News Channels
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed the blocking of 22 YouTube-based news channels, of which four are from Pakistan, for allegedly spreading fake news to mislead viewers. This is the first time that action has been taken against the Indian YouTube-based news publishers since the notification of the IT Rules, 2021 in February last yea
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed the blocking of 22 YouTube-based news channels, of which four are from Pakistan. This is the first time that action has been taken against the Indian YouTube-based news publishers since the notification of the IT Rules, 2021 in February last year.
According to the I&B ministry, the Indian YouTube channels that were blocked are ARP News, AOP News, LDC News, SarkariBabu, SS ZONE Hindi, Smart News, News23Hindi, Online Khabar, DP news, PKB News, KisanTak, Borana News, Sarkari News Update, Bharat Mausam, RJ ZONE 6, Exam Report, Digi Gurukul, दिनभरकीखबरें. The four Pakistan-based YouTube channels are DuniyaMeryAagy, Ghulam NabiMadni, HAQEEQAT TV, HAQEEQAT TV 2.0. The website that was blocked was ‘Dunya Mere Aagy’, while the Twitter accounts Ghulam NabiMadni, DunyaMeryAagy, Haqeeqat TV will also be blocked. The ‘DunyaMeryAagy’ Facebook page will also be blocked.
Pakistan — DuniyaMeryAagy (4,28,000 subscribers, 11,29,96,047 total views), Ghulam NabiMadni (37,90,109 total views), HAQEEQAT TV (40,90,000 subscribers, 1,46,84,10,797 total views), HAQEEQAT TV 2.0 (3,03,000 subscribers, 37,542,059 total views), for allegedly spreading fake news to mislead viewers. The cumulative viewership of these channels came close to 260 crore, according to the ministry’s statement. ARP news (4,40,68,652 total views) led the list with the highest number of fake news items, followed by KisanTak (36,54,327 total views).
In a statement, the ministry revealed that 18 of the channels were based in India, while four were based. All the Indian channels that were blocked Monday were in Hindi. One sensational graphic even claimed India will be “destroyed by NATO”. Most of the graphics were war images containing photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden, and Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Although the ministry has blocked YouTube channels before citing security concerns. The total number of YouTube channels blocked so far is 78 — the ministry banned 20 in December and another 35 in January, both times citing security concerns.
The blocked Indian YouTube channels were using templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors, to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic. False thumbnails were used, the ministry stated, and the title and thumbnails were changed frequently to help make the content go viral. Fake news monitoring is done either through the nodal officers within the ministry or through intelligence agencies.
The new IT Rules, which were notified in February 2021, have been criticised for giving unprecedented powers of censorship to the government, including the right to remove content. Digital media outlets also fall under the ambit of the law, raising concerns about press freedom. Several petitions have challenged the rules in courts, chiefly on the grounds that they exceed the parent IT Act, 2000. Though the government has in this instance used the new IT Rules to block content that it said is attempting to “undermin[e] India’s sovereignty and integrity, national security, foreign relations, and public order”, section 69A of the IT Act also allows for blocking public access to any information “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order”.
India has been seeking tougher action from U.S. tech giants including Google and Facebook on what it describes as fake news on their platforms. In a meeting in February, officials told the firms their inaction was forcing the government to order content takedowns, which in turn drew international criticism that authorities were suppressing free expression Google in that meeting had proposed that the ministry should avoid making takedown decisions public, but the idea was summarily rejected by the officials.