India blocks 22 YouTube channels over national security concerns

India has banned 22 YouTube “news” channels for spreading disinformation on subjects concerning the national security and public order. The banned YouTube channels had amassed a combined total of 2.6 billion viewers, New Delhi said.

The channels, four of which had origins in Pakistan and rest coming from India, were attempting to use templates and logos similar to those of credible news outlets, the government said. The videos used misleading thumbnails, titles to gain views and share misinformation about a number of subjects including the Indian armed forces and the ongoing “situation” in Ukraine, it added.

The ministry invoked the emergency powers under the newfound IT Rules, 2021, it said. The government first exercised this power late last year, when it had blocked 20 channels. The government said it has now blocked 78 channels on YouTube and some social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter since December.

“Multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces, Jammu and Kashmir, etc,” the ministry said in a statement.

“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 published by these Indian YouTube based channels related to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and aimed at jeopardising India’s foreign relations with other countries.”

India introduced new IT rules last year that give it broader control over the content on social media platforms. The rules also hold social media companies to account with more scrutiny, a factor that prompted scores of firms to pushback. The rules went into effect mid-last year.