New Delhi, Apr 5 (EFE).- The government of India notified Tuesday blocking 22 news channels on YouTube and several social media accounts for spreading disinformation, under a contentious 2021 law that gives the authorities greater control over online content.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, under the emergency powers of the IT Rules passed last year, issued orders for “blocking of twenty-two (22) YouTube based news channels, three (3) Twitter accounts, one (1) Facebook account, and one (1) news website,” the ministry said in a statement.
The YouTube channels – 18 of them Indian and four of them identified as Pakistani media – was found by the government to have streamed fake content and had an estimated cumulative viewership of 260 million.
These sources “coordinated disinformation over social media on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order,” the statement said.
The channels broadcast, for example, news about the Indian Armed Forces and the situation in Indian Kashmir, a restive region that is often the scene of violent separatist confrontations and activities.
The authorities also said they had observed “a significant amount of false content published by the these Indian YouTube based channels related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at jeopardizing India’s foreign relations with other countries.”
These channels used templates and logos of certain recognized TV news channels, including images of their presenters “to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic.”
“In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan,” the ministry underlined.
According to official data, since December 2021, the government has ordered the blocking of 78 news channels on YouTube and several social media accounts for reasons related to national security, the sovereignty and integrity of India, and public order.
However, this is the first time that action has been taken against Indian channels on YouTube under the IT Rules.
The regulation, among other things, obliges technology companies to quickly eliminate any content deemed illegal and help investigate its origin, affecting social networks, media, and digital platforms.
This law has received criticism from large internet firms such as Twitter, which views this as a threat to freedom of expression, and WhatsApp that underlined the regulation breaks users’ privacy. EFE