Centre blocks several YouTube, social media accounts for spreading misinformation
The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, said that the Indian government blocked 104 YouTube channels, 45 videos, four Facebook accounts, three Instagram accounts, five Twitter handles, and six websites. They were blocked for spreading misinformation and threatening national security. The minister said that the action was taken lawfully and that government won't hesitate to take such action in the future as well.
Why does this story matter?
- Effective dissemination of information is an important component of society's growth. In the modern world, new media takes care of this.
- However, the ease of access coupled with almost non-existent verification methods makes new media an easy carrier of fake information. This is where the government has to step in.
- If misinformation is not contained, it has the potential to alter reality.
Channels and accounts were blocked under Section 69A, IT Act
The government took action against channels and social media accounts under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2002, said Thakur. Speaking in Rajya Sabha, the union minister added that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) directed social media companies to block 1,643 user-generated URLs, including accounts, posts, webpages, and websites from 2021 to October 2022 under Part-II of the IT rules.
Part-II of IT Rules prescribes guidelines for intermediaries
Section 69A of the IT Act grants the government power to restrict access to content in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defense of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and public order, among others. Part-II of the IT Rules, on the other hand, prescribes the due diligence to be followed by intermediaries, including significant social media intermediaries.
Some of the blocked channels were fake news channels
The blocked YouTube channels include Aaj Tak Live, News Headlines, and Sarkari Updates. The three had a combined subscriber count of 33 lakh and a view count of over 30 crore. Per Press Information Bureau's (PIB) Fact Check Unit, these channels were spreading fake claims about the Prime Minister of India, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission, among others.
Fake news channels used original logs and images of anchors
The blocked news channels attracted users by displaying fake thumbnails with logos of the 'real' TV channel and images of the anchors to mislead users into consuming their content. They monetized misinformation by displaying advertisements on their video. PIB's exposé brought down the whole channels instead of individual posts this time. This is the first time bureau has done that.