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India blocks Pakistan-backed social media accounts, websites spreading fake news

India blocks Pakistan-backed social media accounts, websites spreading fake news
Photo Credit: Pixabay
21 Jan, 2022
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India has blocked multiple YouTube channels, websites along with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts that were allegedly funded by Pakistan and were spreading disinformation and misinformation about India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a statement

The content published on these accounts and channels advocated separatism, undermined the democratic process of the upcoming state elections, were trying to divide India into religious lines and create animosity between different sections in the country, the Ministry said. 

Five separate orders were issued under rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 to block these social media accounts and websites. According to the Ministry, the list of blocked entities include 35 YouTube channels, two websites, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts and one Facebook account. 

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India had blocked 20 YouTube channels and two websites in December 2021 for similar violations. 

The 35 YouTube channels were found to be operating from Pakistan and had links with four coordinated disinformation networks, many of which were being operated by anchors of Pakistani TV news channels. The blocked YouTube channels had a total subscriber base of over 1 crore 20 lakhs and their videos had been viewed over 130 crore times. Some of the YouTube channels were found spreading fake news about the demise of the chief of defence staff general Bipin Rawat, who died in a chopper crash last month. 

One of the blocked YouTube channels that had a subscriber base of 893,148 was spreading fake news about Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas using its drones on India and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan issuing a warning to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over Ram mandir. 

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India has seen a massive increase in the userbase of social media networks in the last few years. According to Statista, YouTube had 459.23 million users as of December 2021, while Facebook had 290 million users. Though these companies have taken measures to curb misinformation, they have failed to clamp down on them completely. In 2021, Facebook was accused by whistleblower Frances Haugen of deliberately ignoring fake news and hate speeches which led to increasing in misinformation and disinformation.