20 YouTube channels and two websites on Monday were taken down by India after the Union government, for the first time, invoked the emergency powers under the intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics code in the IT Act that was notified recently, according to a news report in Economic Times. The YouTube channels and the websites were allegedly running anti-India content from Pakistan.

According to the newspaper, I&B secretary Apurva Chandra directed YouTube and the Department of Telecom to ban the content as it infringes upon the sovereignty and integrity of India.

I&B officials said that the 'anti-India content' was being run by Pakistan with the help of Inter-Services Intelligence. One of the groups identified on YouTube was 'Naya Pakistan' that had more than 2 million subscribers and was running 'false news' on various issues such as Kashmir, farmers protests in India, Article 370, and Ayodhya. The total subscriber base of these YouTube channels is estimated to be more than 3.5 million and have a total viewership of 500 million, according to the officials.

These channels were flagged first by the security agencies after which the information ministry conducted its own inquiry. "This is for the first time that the emergency powers under the IT Rules, 2021 have been cited to ban anti-India propaganda websites," a senior official was quoted as saying in the report.

"The inquiry revealed that these websites were being run from Pakistan. The content run on these channels is blasphemous and hugely impinges on national security," said the official, who was part of the review. Among the YouTube channels banned by India, 15 are owned by Naya Pakistan group, while the others include 'The Naked Truth', '48 News' and 'Junaid Halim official'.

The I&B ministry's inquiry revealed that some of the videos - pertaining to Article 370, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Taliban fighters marching to Kashmir, among other issues - had about 3 million views. The total subscriber base of these YouTube channels is estimated to be 3.5 million and their content related to India has had over 500 million views.

The probe further revealed that these channels hosted fake videos about the farmers' protests. Earlier, security agencies had flagged the growing presence of radical elements during farmers' protests. It was alleged that Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which was banned for its anti-India secessionist movement, was instigating farmers in Delhi and Punjab. The farm laws were repealed during the winter session of Parliament following a year-long protest by farmers at Delhi's borders.

Officials said the decision to ban and block these channels and websites will be presented before the Inter Departmental Committee (IDC) within 48 hours, following which it will be ratified by a committee under the IT Rules, 2021.