New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has blocked 16 YouTube news channels, including six Pakistan and ten India-based channels having a cumulative viewership of over 68 crore, for spreading disinformation related to the country’s national security, foreign relations, and public order. The ministry also blocked one Facebook account.

“It was observed that these channels were used to spread fake news over social media on matters related to national security, India’s foreign relations, communal harmony in the country, and public order. None of the digital news publishers had furnished information to the Ministry as required under rule 18 of the IT Rules, 2021,” the I&B ministry said.

Utilising the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021, the Ministry vide two separate orders on April 22, issued directions for blocking 16 YouTube-based news channels and one Facebook account.

The ministry noted that the content published by some India-based YouTube channels referred to a community as terrorists and incited hatred among the members of various religious communities. Such content was found to have the potential to create communal disharmony and disturb public order.

“YouTube channels based in Pakistan were found to have been used in a coordinated manner to post fake news about India on various subjects such as the Indian Army, Jammu, and Kashmir, and India’s foreign relations in the light of the situation in Ukraine, etc,” the ministry said.

It said that the content of these channels was observed to be completely false, and sensitive from the perspective of national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, and India’s friendly relations with foreign states.

Multiple India-based YouTube channels were observed to publish unverified news and videos having the potential to create panic among various sections of society. Examples include false claims related to the announcement of a pan-India lockdown due to Covid-19 thereby threatening the migrant workers, fabricated claims alleging threats to certain religious communities, etc. Such content was observed to be detrimental to public order in the country.

On April 23, the ministry had also advised private TV news channels against making false claims and using scandalous headlines. “The Government of India remains committed to ensuring a safe and secure information environment in India across print, television, and online media,” the ministry added.