They were being used to post divisive content in a coordinated manner

The Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has ordered the blocking of 35 Pakistan-based YouTube news channels and 2 websites which were involved in "spreading anti-India fake news in a coordinated manner over digital media".

Two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts, and one Facebook account have also been blocked by the Government for being involved in spreading coordinated anti-India disinformation over the internet, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said on Friday.

According to the ministry, these YouTube channels had a total subscriber base of over 1.2 crore, and their videos had over 130 crore views.

"The channels and websites belong to a coordinated disinformation network operating from Pakistan and spreading fake news about various sensitive subjects related to India," the ministry said

The channels which have been blocked were used to post divisive content in a coordinated manner on issues pertaining to the Indian Army, Jammu and Kashmir, minority communities in India, Ram Mandir, late General Bipin Rawat and India’s foreign relations with other countries.

"Indian intelligence agencies have been closely monitoring these social media accounts and websites, and on Friday flagged them to the Ministry for immediate action," the I&B Ministry said.

These Pakistan-based social media accounts and websites have been blocked under five separate orders issued under rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The 35 blocked YouTube accounts operating from Pakistan were identified to be part of four coordinated disinformation networks, the I&B Ministry said.

These include the Apni Duniya Network operating 14 YouTube channels, and Talha Films Network operating 13 YouTube channels. A set of four channels, and a set of two other channels were also found to be acting in synchronization with each other, informed the Ministry.

All these networks appeared to be operated with a single goal of spreading fake news oriented towards the Indian audience. The channels which were part of a network used common hashtags and editing styles, were being operated by common persons, and cross promoted each other’s content.

The ministry also listed some of their fake and concocted news stories:

* Indian Army High Alert As Narendra Modi Issue New Order About Muslims

* Indian Soldiers have started Suicide Attempts During Duty With Fear Of Kashmirri Mujahedeen

* A third video claimed that the daughter of CDS General Rawat has accepted Islam

"Many of these concocted stories are ridiculous, but they were being seriously peddled by the anchors, who claimed to be senior Pakistani journalists, to lend credence to fake stories," the ministry pointed out.

"It was observed that unbridled fake news was being spread through the YouTube channels regarding the demise of the former Indian 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.

The channels propagated content to encourage separatism, divide India on the lines of religion, and create animosity among the different sections of the Indian society. Such information was feared to have the potential to incite the audience into commission of crimes adversely affecting public order in the country.

In December, 2021, the Government had blocked 20 YouTube channels and 2 websites. This was the first time that
emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 were utilized to act against such anti-India fake news networks.

"The intelligence agencies and the Ministry continue to work closely in order to secure the overall information environment in India," the I&B Ministry said.