The union ministry of information and broadcasting has directed YouTube to block 45 videos from 10 channels for alleged disinformation that was detrimental to India’s sovereignty, security, global relations and public order. The videos, as per the ministry, had more than 1.3 crore viewers.
Speaking to the media, I&B minister Anurag Thakur said the government will continue to act against those who try to upload such content in future too.
The blocked videos include one by popular YouTuber Dhruv Rathee – titled “Why Imran Khan lost? Political crisis in Pakistan” – which the ministry says showed parts of Indian territory in Pakistan.
The ministry’s statement also said that the videos had potential to cause communal disharmony and disrupt public order. Some of the videos were “false claims” such as the government taking away the religious rights of certain communities and a declaration of “civil war”, it said.
The ministry said it issued the orders based on intelligence inputs and under provisions of the new IT rules.
The government has blocked 78 news channels and 560 URLs on YouTube since last year, minister Thakur told the Lok Sabha in a written reply in July.
Some of the blocked videos were being used to spread disinformation on issues related to Agnipath scheme, the armed forces, India’s security apparatus, Kashmir, etc. Certain videos depicted parts of J&K and Ladakh outside the Indian territory. This “cartographic misrepresentation” was found to be “detrimental to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India”.
The blocked videos include six each from Inqilab Live and Desh India live, nine from Hind Voice, two each from GetsetflyFACT and 4PM, 13 from Live TV, four from Mr Reaction Wala, and one each by National Adda and Vinay Pratap Singh Bhopar.
Similar orders can be issued by the union ministry of electronics and information technology under section 69A of the information technology act. Unlike the IT rules under which the I&B ministry issues such orders, those under section 69A are supposed to be confidential.
Twitter has already sued the Indian government over the “arbitrary” nature of such orders to take down content in the Karnataka high court.
Meanwhile, senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing on behalf of Twitter in the high court on Monday, argued that a tweet that says “I love my country but not my government” is not seditious but only a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression under Article 19.
Justice Krishna S Dixit, who was hearing the case, asked if there was any legal provision that allowed content that was taken down to be restored on the internet. Neither the IT rules nor section 69A blocking rules specify the same.