NEW DELHI: The government on Tuesday cracked down on Pakistani propaganda by ordering blocking of 20 YouTube channels and websites run by Islamabad.
In a fast paced development, the Information and Broadcasting ministry directed the Department of Telecom (DoT) and YouTube to block 20 identified YouTube channels and websites being run from Pakistan. These channels and two websites were involved in peddling incendiary and fake anti-India propaganda and were being operated by notorious Inter–Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, official sources said.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government invoked emergency provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to ban YouTube channels and websites running anti-India propaganda for the first time.
Apurva Chandra, the Secretary to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wrote to YouTube and the Department of Telecom, asking them to immediately block the content as it affects the sovereignty and integrity of India. One of the portals ordered to be blocked is identified as ‘Naya Pakistan Group’ which reportedly runs over 15 YouTube channels.“These channels were found to be “purveyors of pernicious, fake and anti-India propaganda.”
Top sources in the government told The New Indian that identified YouTube channels will be de-platformed in a day or two. The DoT has blocked the two Pakistani websites involved in spewing venom aimed at sowing discontent in the country, a senior official said.
It was a closely coordinated action launched by the central security agencies and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The ministry on Monday issued two separate orders – one for 20 YouTube channels directing YouTube, and the other for two news websites, requesting Department of Telecom to direct the internet service providers for blocking of 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”, stated the official.
The statement issued by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said, “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 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.”
A detailed monitoring of these YouTube channels was carried out and it was found the channels being aired from Pakistan had 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, officials said.
Action against these channels and websites was necessitated to secure the information space in India. The Centre utilized emergency powers under the Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
The Union Government has observed that majority of content pertains to subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security and were factually incorrect. False and inflammatory material was being posted from Pakistan as a coordinated disinformation network (as in the case of Naya Pakistan Group) against India and thus deemed it fit for action under the provisions to block content in case of emergency.