India blocks 35 Pakistan-based YouTube channels

India has ordered blocking of 35 Pakistan-based YouTube channels and two websites for “spreading anti-India fake news in a coordinated manner over digital media”, the government said on Friday.

“These channels were toxic and spreading anti-India propaganda,” information and broadcasting ministry secretary Apurva Chandra said in a Press conference. “More and more such channels will continue to be blocked. Not only intelligence agencies, we urge the people to come forward and notify us of such content.”

Chandra also reminded YouTube that the company should have also kept track of the content uploaded on its platform. “This is also the responsibility of the intermediaries. YouTube should also see that these are absolutely fake news,” he said, referring to India’s new intermediary rules notified last year.

This is the second instance of the government blocking YouTube channels and websites linked to Pakistan in the last month. On December 21, the government said 20 YouTube channels were ordered to be blocked under emergency provisions incorporated in the information technology rules last February. YouTube later took down those channels.

Union minister of information and technology Anurag Thakur said that any social media account trying to mislead the public would be taken down. “Any account that is trying to spin a conspiracy or mislead the people will be actioned,” he told reporters.

An officias statement released on the action against “Pakistani fake news factories”, said these channels had over 12 million subscribers and over 1,320 million views. They include Khabar Taiz, Flash Now, Mera Pakistan With, Hakikat Ki Duniya, ‘Khabar with Facts’, ‘Global Truth’, ‘Information Hub’, ‘Bol Media TV and Apni Dunya Tv.

“These channels were spreading misinformation about the Indian army, including conspiracies that the death of chief of defence staff Bipin Rawat was an assassination,” said Vikram Sahay, the ministry’s joint secretary and designated officer under the information technology law. “These threaten the sovereignty and the integrity of India.”

According to the ministry, the YouTube channels, websites, and other social media accounts blocked were used by “Pakistan to spread anti-India fake news about sensitive subjects related to India”. “These include topics such as the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s foreign relations with other countries.

It was observed that rampant fake news was spread through the YouTube channels regarding the demise of the former Chief of Defence Staff Late General Bipin Rawat. These YouTube channels had also started posting content to undermine the democratic process of the upcoming elections in five states,” the ministry said in an official statement.