While responding to a question in Rajya Sabha, the minister informed the house that the union government has blocked 94 YouTube channels and 19 social media accounts during 2021-22 for spreading fake news and information. Apart from YouTube channels and accounts on social media, 747 URLs were also blocked.
Anurag Thakur said in the response that all the actions relating to banning and regulating accounts and URLs were taken under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000. The respective section in the IT Act 2000 gives the central government, or any of its designated officers, the power to order or direct any agency or intermediary to block or regulate any kind of information or content on the internet.
The minister in his response added that the government will take all possible and necessary steps to stop the spread of fake news and fake propaganda on the internet. He also said that the authorities would continue to act very stringently against groups or individuals who are planning to work against sovereignty and integrity of the nation.
A few days ago, the social networking app Twitter India filed a lawsuit against take-down orders received from the government of India. According to Twitter India, the majority of the take-down orders issued by the Indian Government were unreasonable and excessive. Twitter also alleged that the blocking orders issued under Section 69 A of IT Act 2000 were sometimes targeting entire accounts of certain individuals and organisations.
In another incident a few weeks ago, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting blocked 16 channels from YouTube for allegedly spreading misinformation and fake news. Out of 16 channels, 6 were from Pakistan and all channels together had a cumulative viewership of nearly 68 crores.
According to the ministry, these channels, and accounts constantly spread misinformation and fake news regarding the national security of India and specific regions. The topics covered by these channels were mainly, Kashmir, Indian foreign policy and religion. By spreading unverified information about highly sensitive social issues, these channels were allegedly planning to incite communal disharmony and violence in the country.
Apart from YouTube channels, Twitter also blocked access to official Twitter accounts of Pakistan Embassies in the UN, Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. This led to a situation where Pakistan’s foreign ministry called upon Twitter to uphold its democratic values by restoring the accounts banned in India.