wordpress blog stats
Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting blocks 22 YouTube channels for spreading fake news and disinformation

The fake news pertained to various subjects including the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued orders to block twenty-two YouTube-based news channels, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and one news website under the emergency powers granted by the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, the ministry said in a press release issued on April 5.

The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 2.6 billion views (260 crores) and were used to spread fake news and coordinated disinformation on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order, MIB said.

This is the fourth instance of MIB invoking powers under IT Rules to block content and the first time that Indian accounts have been targetted. With this action, since December 2021, MIB has blocked 78 YouTube-based news channels and several other social media accounts.

“The Government of India remains committed towards ensuring an authentic, trustworthy, and safe online news media environment, and thwart any attempts at undermining India’s sovereignty and integrity, national security, foreign relations, and public order.” – MIB


Dear reader, we urgently need to build capacity to cover the fast-moving tech policy space. For that, our independent newsroom is counting on you. Subscribe to MediaNama today, and help us report on the policies that govern the internet.


What content was shared by the blocked accounts?

Multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, and the ongoing situation in Ukraine, which was aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries, the press release stated.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The blocked accounts also posted certain “anti-India content” posted in a coordinated manner from Pakistan, the release added.

What was the modus operandi of the blocked accounts?

  1. Imitating authentic news channels: MIB found that many of the blocked YouTube channels were using templates and logos of well-known TV news channels, including images of their news anchors, to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic.
  2. Frequently altered content: MIB also found that these channels were using false titles and thumbnails, which were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media.
Collage of fake news shared by the blocked YouTube channels

Screenshots of fake news shared by the blocked accounts. Source: MIB

Which accounts have been blocked?

India-based YouTube channels

  1. ARP News
  2. AOP News
  3. LDC News
  4. SarkariBabu
  5. SS ZONE Hindi
  6. Smart News
  7. News23Hindi
  8. Online Khabar
  9. DP news
  10. PKB News
  11. KisanTak
  12. Borana News
  13. Sarkari News Update
  14. Bharat Mausam
  15. RJ ZONE 6
  16. Exam Report
  17. Digi Gurukul
  18. दिनभरकीखबरें

Pakistan-based YouTube channels

  1. DuniyaMeryAagy
  2. Ghulam NabiMadni
  3. HAQEEQAT TV
  4. HAQEEQAT TV 2.0

Other Pakistan-based content

  • Twitter
    1. Ghulam NabiMadni
    2. DunyaMeryAagy
    3. Haqeeqat TV
  • Facebook
    1. DunyaMeryAagy
  • Website
    1. Dunya Mere Aagy

MIB wants platforms to be more proactive in combating fake news

In a meeting held on January 31, officials from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) strongly criticised Google, Twitter, and Facebook for not doing enough to remove fake news on their platforms, forcing the government to issue content takedown orders.

The government officials urged the platforms to do more on their own to combat misinformation because content takedown orders draw international criticism for suppressing free expression, damaging the public image of the government. When a Google official suggested that government can keep takedown requests confidential to avoid negative publicity, the government officials rejected the suggestion saying that such takedowns publicise how tech companies aren’t doing enough to tackle fake news on their own.

What happened in the previous instances?

  1. December 2021: MIB blocked 20 YouTube channels and two news websites saying that these channels and websites formed a “coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan” which was “spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India.”
  2. January 2022: MIB blocked 35 YouTube news channels, two news websites, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts and one Facebook account, all of which were allegedly part of a “coordinated disinformation campaign from Pakistan.”
  3. February 2022: MIB blocked apps, websites, and social media accounts including the YouTube channel of foreign-based Punjab Politics TV having close links with Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), an organization that has been declared unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

What do the IT Rules say?

  1. An authorised officer, appointed by the MIB, can submit a recommendation to the MIB Secretary for the immediate blocking of certain content in cases of public emergency under Rule 16 of the IT Rules. The rule states that the grounds for such blocking are laid in Section 69 of the IT Act, which lays out the interest of the sovereignty, defence, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, or investigation of any offence as grounds.
  2. If the MIB Secretary is satisfied with the necessity of such blocking, they can issue a direction to the publishers or an intermediary as an interim measure, recording the reasons for it in writing.
  3. Within 48 hours, the issue will be bought for consideration and recommendation before the IDC whose decision will prevail. In case the IDC decides against the blocking, the MIB Secretary will revoke their order.
  4. A Review Committee should meet at least once every two months and record its findings on whether the directions of blocking of content or information issued under these rules are in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 69A of the Act and if it is of the opinion that the directions are not in accordance with the said provisions, it may set aside the directions and issue an order for unblocking of such content.

MediaNama’s Take: Is the government really open about content takedowns?

The press release by MIB might suggest that the government is transparent about the content takedown orders it issues under Section 69A, but don’t be fooled by these releases.

In most cases, the government declines to reveal the reasoning behind content takedown orders. This is contradictory to the government’s stance in the January 31 meeting where it said it wants to keep content takedowns public. From what it looks like, the government is happy to be transparent when the content takedown doesn’t portray the government in bad light such as when it is taking action against security concerns posed by Chinese apps or misinformation spread by Pakistani operatives. But when it comes to takedowns of content that’s critical of the government or content that is politically or religiously sensitive, the government conveniently hides behind the confidentiality offered by Section 69A of the IT Act 2000.

There are many more instances where the government has declined to reveal any information on takedown orders. For example, earlier in 2021, Twitter was ordered to block access to several prominent Indian accounts including multiple anti-establishment commentators and organisations representing protesting farmers. But when asked to disclose details of the order, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology refused, stating the blocking orders under 69A are subject to “strict confidentiality.” Then in April 2021, Twitter complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised India’s handling of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and once again, there was no explanation from the government for the same. In October last year, around 24 tweets and accounts that put up pro-secessionist content pertaining to Kashmir and Punjab were withheld in India by Twitter based on government orders, but no official disclosure was made by the government.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

Also Read:

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Have something to add? Subscribe to MediaNama here and post your comment. 

Written By

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

Views

News

The Delhi High Court should quash the government's order to block Tanul Thakur's website in light of the Shreya Singhal verdict by the Supreme...

News

Releasing the policy is akin to putting the proverbial 'cart before the horse'.

News

The industry's growth is being weighed down by taxation and legal uncertainty.

News

Due to the scale of regulatory and technical challenges, transparency reporting under the IT Rules has gotten off to a rocky start.

News

Here are possible reasons why Indians are not generating significant IAP revenues despite our download share crossing 30%.

You May Also Like

News

Google has released a Google Travel Trends Report which states that branded budget hotel search queries grew 179% year over year (YOY) in India, in...

Advert

135 job openings in over 60 companies are listed at our free Digital and Mobile Job Board: If you’re looking for a job, or...

News

Rajesh Kumar* doesn’t have many enemies in life. But, Uber, for which he drives a cab everyday, is starting to look like one, he...

News

By Aroon Deep and Aditya Chunduru You’re reading it here first: Twitter has complied with government requests to censor 52 tweets that mostly criticised...

MediaNama is the premier source of information and analysis on Technology Policy in India. More about MediaNama, and contact information, here.

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ

Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Name:*
Your email address:*
*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide

© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ