NEW DELHI : The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed the blocking of 22 YouTube-based news channels, of which four are from Pakistan, alleging that they were spreading fake news that could impact national security, foreign relations and public order.

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, it said.

In an official statement, the ministry said that it issued an order on Monday to block 22 YouTube channels, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account and one news website.

With this action, the ministry has, since December 2021, issued directions for blocking 78 YouTube-based news channels and several other social media accounts on grounds related to national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, etc.

“Through the recent blocking order, 18 Indian and four 4 Pakistan-based YouTube news channels have been blocked,” the ministry said, without naming them.

The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 260 crore, the ministry said in an official statement, adding that they were spreading fake news and coordinated disinformation over social media on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order.

According to the ministry, multiple YouTube channels were used to post “fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc.” “The content ordered to be blocked also included certain anti-India content posted from multiple social media accounts operated in a coordinated manner from Pakistan.

“It was observed that a significant amount of false content was published by the Indian YouTube channels related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at jeopardising India’s foreign relations with other countries,” it said.

The ministry said that 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, title and thumbnail of the videos were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media. In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan,” it said.

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