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YouTube finally complies and blocks Dhruv Rathi video in India, but questions still remain as to who tipped him off after govt order

While YouTube has complied, after making an exception for the video by Dhruv Rathi, questions about big tech companies helping a certain narrative prevail on its platforms is a concern that the government of India ought to consider in all seriousness.

On Monday (26 September 2022), the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) decided to block 45 YouTube videos from 10 YouTube channels under the IT Rules 2021, which empowers the government to block digital content that is seen as a threat to sovereign integrity, internal security, or for maintaining law and order of the nation. OpIndia reported last night (Monday, 26th September) that YouTube had failed to comply with the government order as far as one video in that list was concerned. In the list provided by the Ministry, one video was that by popular YouTuber Dhruv Rathi.

Rathi is known to be a pro-AAP commentator and has been accused of spreading misinformation and propaganda through his videos by his critics.

In the video that was included in the block list by the Government of India, Rathi had included a distorted map of India in his video where parts of Kashmir were shown as part of Pakistan or ‘disputed’. Carrying such a map of India is a punishable offence.

While YouTube blocked all other videos, this particular video by Dhruv Rathi remained online hours after the government informed about the decision via a press release. On Monday evening, Akhilesh Sharma, a senior journalist from NDTV, tweeted and included a screenshot of the concerned video by Dhruv Rathi. However, several individuals responded to Sharma pointing out that while the government had ordered that the content be blocked, his video was still available for Indian audiences.

After the OpIndia report pointing towards possible insider help by YouTube, it has now emerged that YouTube has finally conceded to the government’s demand and blocked the video from being viewed by Indian audiences.

Dhruv Rathi video blocked by YouTube
Dhruv Rathi video blocked by YouTube

When one clicks on the YouTube link of the video, the message that is displayed says, “Video Unavailable: This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint by the government”.

The said video was uploaded by Dhruv Rathi on 11 April 2022 and it claimed to explain why Imran Khan lost power in Pakistan. Dhruv Rathi makes videos on various issues where he claims to explain anything from politics to science to movies to travel and just about anything. The said video also included “paid promotion”.

At 4.41 minutes in the YouTube video, the distorted map of India was displayed by Dhruv Rathi where parts of Indian territory were shown in Pakistan, due to which this video was included in the block list by the Ministry of I&B.

As YouTube makes an exception for Dhruv Rathi, questions about “insider help” still remain

What was intriguing in this entire fiasco, was the fact that Dhruv Rathi had, prior to being blocked, edited the video and blurred the portion where Kashmir was shown as a part of Pakistan. When OpIndia spoke to Ministry officials before the video was finally blocked by YouTube, we were told that there are suspicions that a YouTube ‘insider’ is helping Dhruv Rathi.

“Normally YouTube or any other intermediary will send a standard communication to a user informing them about a legal or executive order, advising them to talk to respective law enforcement or government agencies for a redressal. Such communication doesn’t include specific information as to which particular part of their content was problematic. This is clearly someone going out of the way to help Rathi circumvent a government order,” the official said.

Ministry of I&B officials also disclosed that Dhruv Rathi has not even bothered to furnish information as was sought by the ministry. Many content creators and digital news publishers, including OpIndia, have duly furnished such information to the government.

It is to be kept in mind that even before YouTube complied with the government orders, Dhruv Rathi had edited the problematic part of his video. Without an insider giving him information about government action, one wonders why Rathi would edit the very video that the government wanted to be blocked. Further, what gives credence to the speculation about insider help, is the fact that YouTube complied with government orders and blocked all other videos except the one by Dhruv Rathi. Such delay is unexplainable unless someone in YouTube was helping Rathi and wanted his content to not be blocked.

While YouTube has complied, after making an exception for the video by Dhruv Rathi, questions about big tech companies helping a certain narrative prevail on its platforms is a concern that the government of India ought to consider in all seriousness, given that big-tech companies are flouting the IT guidelines issued by the Government with impunity.

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