India on Tuesday blocked as many as 22 YouTube channels with millions of views for spreading "fake news" over social media on "subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security and foreign relations".
In a statement, the Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry said that the decision was taken utilising the emergency powers under the country's Information Technology Rules, 2021.
Apart from the 22 YouTube-based news channels, three Twitter accounts, one Facebook account and one news website have been blocked, the Ministry said.
"The blocked YouTube channels had a cumulative viewership of over 260 crore, and were used to spread fake news, and coordinated disinformation over social media on subjects sensitive from the perspective of national security, India’s foreign relations, and public order."
Of the 22 YouTube channels, 18 were Indian and four Pakistan based, the Ministry said.
According to the statement, these channels were used to post fake news on various subjects such as the Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir.
"The content ordered to be blocked also included certain anti-India content posted from multiple social media accounts operated in a coordinated manner from Pakistan," it said.
The blocked Indian YouTube channels were using templates and logos of certain TV news channels, including images of their news anchors, to mislead the viewers to believe that the news was authentic, according to the Ministry.
"False thumbnails were used; and title and thumbnail of the videos were frequently altered to increase the virality of content on social media. In certain cases, it was also observed that systematic anti-India fake news was originating from Pakistan."
In January also, the Indian government blocked as many as 35 Pakistan-backed YouTube channels with over 130 crore views "for spreading fake and misleading information on social media".
These YouTube channels were spreading fake news like the Indian government was responsible for the death of this country's first military chief -- General Bipin Rawat -- and that his daughter would accept Islam, the Ministry then said.
The 63-year-old four-star General was on his way to deliver a lecture at Defence Services Staff College in Wellington in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in December last year, when his chopper crashed in a hilly terrain and burst into flames.
While 13 people on board were killed on the spot, an Air Force officer died later in the crash.