India blocks 22 YouTube news channels citing national security

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

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government on Tuesday said it has banned 22 YouTube channels, including four of Pakistani origin, for disinformation on subjects concerning national security and public order, the latest such federal crackdown in the country.

The country's Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said the 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 for the first time blocked 18 Indian YouTube channels, with previous actions focusing on accounts it has said operated from neighbouring Pakistan.

"Multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian Armed Forces," the Indian government said in a statement.

In December and January, the information ministry used similar emergency powers to block 55 channels on Alphabet Inc's YouTube, and some Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The Indian government has been using new IT rules introduced in 2021 which were mostly aimed at regulating large social media firms and gave the government more powers to take down content.

India has been seeking tougher action from U.S. tech giants including Google and Facebook on what it describes as fake news on their platforms.

In a meeting in February, officials told the firms their inaction was forcing the government to order content takedowns, which in turn drew international criticism that authorities were suppressing free expression, Reuters reported.

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

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

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