On the ministry’s instruction, YouTube earlier this week blocked three channels with more than 30 crore views and 33 lakh subscribers for allegedly spreading false information about the Indian Supreme Court, Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the election commission of India. Anurag Thakur, the minister of information and broadcasting, said in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the government had blocked 104 YouTube channels and 45 YouTube videos for posting “false” and “misleading” information that can spark rumours or incite panic.
Earlier this week, YouTube suspended three channels with more than 30 crore views and 33 lakh subscribers at the ministry’s request for allegedly spreading false information against the Indian Supreme Court, Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the election commission of India. The I&B minister was responding to a query from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha member Jugalsinh Lokhandwala over the dissemination of “false news” on digital platforms.
“We have taken action against channels that have attempted to mislead and create fear and divisions in society under Section 69A of the IT Act,” Thakur said. “We have banned 104 YouTube channels and blocked 45 individual videos, four Facebook accounts and two posts, three accounts on Instagram, five Twitter accounts, and three podcasts,” the minister stated in the Rajya Sabha, adding, “We have also taken strict action against two apps and six websites as well. The ministry will not hesitate to take such strict action to preserve the country’s security.”
Rakesh Sinha of the BJP raised the issue of deceptive sexual commercials that target youngsters, and Thakur responded by stating that any such advertisement that violates the law is quickly recognised and a notification is sent to the producers. He highlighted the age ranges for OTT content established by the IT guidelines for 2021, including the adult category and those for viewers who are over the age of seven, 13, and 16.
“Everyone can choose which age group of children they want to cater to. There is artistic freedom through this provision, and the viewer can choose which ‘age category’ of content they wish to consume. Along with this, we have formed rules so that action can be taken against those who flout these categories, and if a program is brought to our attention in the future, we will take action against it,” the I&B minister said.
Veerendra Heggade asked Thakur about the complaint process for digital journalism in a written response, and Thakur responded: “The rules also provide for a three-level grievance redressal mechanism to address complaints/grievances relating to violation by digital news publishers of the code of ethics and taking action thereupon.” “There is no requirement for registration by digital news publishers. Under IT rules 2021, they have to furnish information in the specified format to the ministry for communication and coordination purposes,” Anurag Thakur added.