Press Information Bureau Fact Check Unit Debunks Misinformation on Nine YouTube Channels.
New Delhi : The Fact Check Unit of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) scrutinized numerous videos from nine YouTube channels accused of spreading misinformation about the central government’s schemes, the prime minister, the chief justice of India, and public order in the country. The flagged channels, including Bajran Education, Daily Study, Bj News, and Sarkari Yojana Official, boast a combined subscriber count of over 83 lakh.
False claims in the fact-checked videos ranged from alleging a ban on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to predicting a reduction in the price of petrol and LPG cylinders. Some videos falsely suggested the imposition of president’s rule nationwide and the shutdown of internet services. Additionally, there were misleading claims about the chief justice of India initiating legal proceedings against the prime minister.
In response to the misinformation, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) sent an email to YouTube on Friday, notifying the platform about these channels. As of now, there is no confirmation of YouTube’s response.
This incident follows previous alerts from the MIB to YouTube concerning misinformation on its platform. YouTube, after receiving such alerts, conducts its own assessment to determine the content’s severity. Possible actions range from applying its standard 3-strikes policy to terminating the account for severe violations.
Timothy Katz, Director and Global Head of Responsibility at YouTube, emphasized the platform’s approach to content moderation. He explained that while certain content, like conspiracy theories, might be allowed as they pose no real-world harm, misinformation affecting voting processes would likely be removed.
It’s crucial to note that these alerts are not takedown orders under Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. They serve as notifications to aid platforms in conducting their due diligence.
Government officials clarified that these alerts are not directives to remove content but assist platforms in assessing the gravity of the situation. Misinformation-related blocking orders are distinct and can only be issued for specific reasons outlined in the guidelines.
The challenge arises in determining what constitutes a “serious risk” under YouTube’s policies and whether it aligns with the actual magnitude of harm. Additionally, channels monetizing misinformation through YouTube Ads pose concerns, with officials suggesting demonetization as a minimum requirement.
As per the law and the Supreme Court’s Shreya Singhal judgement, social media platforms are not arbiters of speech and should act upon “actual knowledge” from a court order or an authorized government agency. Fact-check intimation by PIB may not suffice as “actual knowledge,” raising questions about the efficacy of the current approach to misinformation on digital platforms.