India blocks 22 YouTube news channels citing national security

A broken Ethernet cable is seen in front of the Youtube logo in this illustration taken March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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NEW DELHI, April 5 (Reuters) – The Indian government said on Tuesday it had banned 22 YouTube channels, including four of Pakistani origin, for disinformation on matters concerning national security and public order, the latest federal crackdown of this type in the country.

The country’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said blocked YouTube channels had a combined total of 2.6 billion viewers.

The government, which invoked ’emergency powers’ under India’s IT laws, said it had blocked 18 Indian YouTube channels for the first time, with previous actions focusing on accounts it says he, were operated from neighboring Pakistan.

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“Several YouTube channels have been used to post fake news on various topics such as the Indian Armed Forces,” the Indian government said in a statement.

In December and January, the Ministry of Information used similar emergency powers to block 55 channels on Alphabet Inc’s YouTube (GOOGL.O) and some Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The Indian government used new IT rules introduced in 2021, which were primarily aimed at regulating large social media companies and gave the government more powers to remove content.

India has demanded tougher action from US tech giants, including Google and Facebook, over what it describes as fake news on their platforms.

At a meeting in February, officials told the companies their inaction was forcing the government to order content takedowns, prompting international criticism that the authorities were cracking down on free speech, Reuters reported. Read more

At that meeting, Google had proposed that the department avoid making takedown decisions public, but the idea was summarily rejected by officials.

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Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in New Delhi; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Ed Osmond

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