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‘Modi planning to demolish Ajmer Dargah’: The kind of news YouTube allowed to be monetized, govt action raises the question if Google should take responsibility

Most of the channels that have been blocked recently by the Government of India were monetized. That means ads were being shown on the videos and the creators were earning money from it.

On August 18, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said that it had banned seven Indian and one Pakistan-based YouTube channel under IT Rule 2021. These channels combined had a viewership of over 144 crores with a total of 85.73 lakh subscribers. It is notable that these channels were monetized, which means they were earning money from the fake anti-India content. The order to block these channels was issued on August 16, 2022.

So far, the Government of India has banned over 102 YouTube channels and their accounts on social media platforms for spreading fake, misleading, and anti-India content since December 2021. It is noteworthy that apart from YouTube channels, GoI has also imposed a ban on social media handles on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms that were found spreading fake or anti-India content. Furthermore, GoI has also banned over a hundred Chinese apps that indulged in anti-India activities.

The fake and misleading content used to mint money

OpIndia went through the channels that GoI has issued an order to ban. As it takes a few hours for the Internet Service Providers to block the content as per the orders, we were able to check them before they were blocked.

First of all, let’s talk about Loktantra TV. Both the YouTube channel and Facebook page for this channel has been blocked by GoI. The channel has 12.9 lakh subscribers.

Source: YouTube

When we sorted the videos by ‘popularity,’ we found that the most viewed video was two years old, and it had 5.9 million or 59 lakh views. Twenty of the videos had over one million or 10 lakh views.

Source: YouTube

The video that was published on August 18, just before the block was imposed, had the title “Top cow beef exporter India received a shock.” The title itself is misleading, and India does not export cow beef. Though it is true that India is among the top exporters of beef, it is buffalo meat and not cows.

Source: YouTube

Another video had the title “Because of Modi, millions of youth cannot get married.” In the press release, the Ministry of I&B added two screenshots from the channel. The first had the title “Modi banned Bakrid,” and the second video had the title “Civil war in India.”

The next channel blocked by GoI is U&V TV, which has over 10 lakh subscribers.

Source: YouTube

The most popular video from the channel was three years old, with 1.4 million views. The latest video that was uploaded on August 18 had the title “Gadkari and Shivraj expelled from BJP,” which is fake news. Similar fake and misleading reports were being uploaded by the channel every day.

Source: YouTube

The next channel is AM Razvi, which has 95,900 subscribers. The channel is owned by a YouTuber by the same name.

Source: YouTube

The most popular videos on the channel had scripted and fake content. The titles were found to be misleading as well.

Source: YouTube

In its press release, GoI shared a screenshot from the channel that read, “It is difficult to save Ajmer Dargah Shareef. Bhagwadharis have attacked the Dargah”. The thumbnail of the image has UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s image with a bulldozer image in the background giving a fake narrative that CM Yogi wanted to demolish the dargah.

Source: PIB

The next channel on the list is Gauravshali Pawan Mithilanchal, which has seven lakh subscribers.

Source: YouTube

The most popular video on the channel has over 5.7 million views, and the other 8 top videos have over 1 million views. The channel has been verified by YouTube, which is no less than shocking as the majority of the videos on the channel have fake information.

Source: YouTube

The next channel is SeeTop5TH, which has 33.5 lakh subscribers. The top video on the channel is nine months old and has 9.8 million views. The channel, in a video, claimed actress Rekha accepted Islam. It further claimed that Rekha said, “Allah will not forgive those who conspired to demolish Babri Masjid.”

Source: YouTube

In the press release, the Ministry of I&B added a screenshot where the title read “Modi government’s announcement on Ajmer Dargah. It will be removed.”

Source: PIB

Three more channels, Sab Kuch Dekho with 19.4 lakh subscribers, Sarkari Update with over 80,000 subscribers, and News Ki Duniya (Pakistani YouTube channel) with 97,000 subscribers, were blocked by the Government of India.

How monetization on YouTube works and why Google should be held responsible

Most of the channels that have been blocked recently by the Government of India were monetized. That means ads were being shown on the videos and the creators were earning money from it. To understand why it raises questions against YouTube, it is essential to understand how monetization works on the platform. According to the terms and conditions, there are certain milestones that a channel has to complete before getting approval for monetization such as minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 minutes of views on the content in the last six months. Once a channel has achieved these milestones, the creator can apply for monetization.

Nowadays, YouTube claims to have a rigorous policy that is followed while allowing channels for monetization. Interestingly, though their policy on misinformation is vague, it is often seen that fake news and misleading information does not get banned on YouTube unless reported by the masses.

YouTube misinformation policy. Source: Google Support

Coming to monetization, when an ad is displayed on a YouTube video, both the creator and YouTube make money. On average, YouTube shares up to 55% of the revenue from the ads with the creators. That means if a channel has made $100 in a month, YouTube could have made up to $81. That means from the fake reports and anti-India content, YouTube is making a lot of money by allowing them to monetize the videos. Some of the channels are even verified giving it authentication that the content has some value in real life.

Though the government has banned the channels, it has to be noted that individual videos can be seen in India as the video URLs do not get banned even if the channel is banned. Also, if a person accesses the channel from outside India or uses a VPN network, the channel will run smoothly. Instead of just banning these channels on ISPs, the government of India should push YouTube and Google to ban the creators and suspend the channels completely.

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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