NEW DELHI: The Centre may consider registering criminal cases against the creators of YouTube channels and social media users, which run anti-India agenda and spread fake news.
A day ago, the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) had ordered the blocking of more than 100 YouTube channels and other digital platforms since December. The majority of them were being operated from Pakistan and around 35 of them were based in India. The ministry on Friday directed YouTube to block 45 videos, which were accused of spreading fake news to create animosity among religious communities.
At least three officials of the ministry confirmed to this reporter that no criminal case or FIR is registered against the handlers of the blocked Youtube channels or social media users but added that the ministry may explore possibilities to take action against the digital news outlets or accounts, which are based in India.
The minister, following the inputs and recommendations from the intelligence and security agencies, blocked the errant handles and digital platforms.
“Ideally, a case should be registered but the ministry can’t get into this. It is not possible for us,” said an official. However, the officials opined that a criminal case may certainly act as a deterrent and help rein in hateful content to an extent.
“As most of the YouTube channels and social media accounts indulged in fake news, showing toxic content or running anti-India agenda are operated from outside the country, registration of a case or initiate criminal proceedings against the persons behind them is not possible. But we will start taking action against those who are based in India,” said a senior official of the ministry.
Cyber law expert Pavan Duggal said that though the Government had appropriate power to register a criminal case against entities based in India under the Informational Technology (IT) Act depending on the nature of violation but generally it is only concerned about blocking the content.
“Registration of a criminal case is a matter of political will. FIRs can be registered but blocking is preferred. However, according to me, blocking is an outdated phenomenon. It is not topical, relevant and successful. We need to look at effective mechanisms,” said Duggal.