Your social media skills are tested during a crisis, the same holds true for Bangalore Police on social media. From inviting citizens to share their problems via Twitter, today the Bangalore City Police is facing the wrath of internet trolls.
It was August last year when M N Reddi, the police commissioner of Bangalore opened his Twitter account. Reddi took over the charges from Raghavendra Auradkar as Commissioner of Police in last July, after his unceremonious exit.
Reddi, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and a true believer of social media has been working aggressively to reach out to the netizens. Meanwhile he has also got most of his staff on social media to connect with people and solve problems. Today his Twitter account has more than 42K followers and Bangalore City Police account has more than 11K followers.
Accolades on social media
It was the case of Iftikar Pasha in August, 2014 that brought the Bangalore Police in the limelight for their effective use of Twitter. Iftikar Pasha had joined Twitter in a desperate attempt to open a line of communication with the city police commissioner.
Pasha had been getting threat calls from unknown persons for the past four months. The threats began after he lost cash worth Rs 4 lakh and 100 grams of gold in a robbery at his house, and approached police. After finding no help Pasha finally started tweeting to the police commissioner which got noticed and the force was behind tracing the call. He was assured that the culprit would be nabbed soon.
This isn’t the only incident, a cursory glance on the Twitter feed of the police commissioner or the Bangalore City Police tweets will grow your belief in the police department. The police has also made sure that Twitter works as a positive PR mechanism for their good work.
— BengaluruCityPolice (@BlrCityPolice) January 5, 2015
— Arti B Mathews (@artimathews) December 12, 2014
According to the statistics provided by the City Police, they have solved about four-fifths of the complaints received on Twitter in the September-December period of last year. “We have converted twitter into an interface between the hierarchy and the public, and it has led to an invisible exertion of pressure on us,” said Reddi.
Speaking to ET the Police Commissioner informed, senior police officers up to the level of DCP are required to have twitter accounts, but Inspectors at police stations in IT suburbs too have taken to Twitter either on their own or due to pressure from the tech-savvy people in those areas who communicate more through the social media.
Raid on a shop in surabhinagar, hulimavu selling counterfiet paint. Seized property worth 25 lakh &1 person arrested pic.twitter.com/jrb8lwHRIj
— DCP South East BCP (@dcpSEbcp) December 24, 2014
Five arrested in Jnanbharti PS, Rs 8 lakhs worth motorcycles and gold ornaments recovered, 10 cases detected. pic.twitter.com/Vj6tg9Jupi
— DCP West BCP (@dcpwestbcp) December 15, 2014
The interaction got momentum when earlier this year Reddi had asked the people to report about the bad roads and poorly-lit areas across the city via his Twitter handle.
He had asked people to report poorly-lit stretches of roads in the city at the Deputy Commissioner’s (administration) Twitter account (@dcpadminbcp) so that necessary action could be taken with the help of civic agencies concerned to improve the condition of roads.
It isn’t that Bangalore Police was doing bad prior to Reddi’s taking charges. It was all over the news in March 2013 after it had effectively chased down hooligans after a Facebook tip off. Reddi’s personal touch and his push to get others onboard has made the difference.
Being trolled on social media
It is often said that social media is a double edged sword and one needs to prepare for difficult times too.
After Bangalore Police arrested Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the alleged handler of the Twitter account of the ISIS, the social media accounts have been at the receiving end from many anonymous accounts who support Mehdi.
The Bangalore Mirror reported that online trolls have been plaguing the Bengaluru city police and Bengaluru traffic police pages on Facebook with derogatory posts containing inflammatory comments against senior departmental officials, politicians, and other public figures using abusive and explicit language for over a year using fake accounts.
These acts of trolling have forced the Bangalore Police to appeal to people not to abuse it on Twitter. In a message posted on its Twitter account, they said they would block people writing abusive messages on its account.
Tweet by Commissioner of Police, request all the follwers to avoid using unparliamentary language on Twitter or else we ll hav 2 block it
— BengaluruCityPolice (@BlrCityPolice) December 15, 2014
Isn’t that a surprise? The Internet’s dark side is governed by trolls, was the Bangalore Police not aware. Thankfully they are not trying to slap FIR against venting frustrations on its social media presence. In a recent case the Supreme Court of India upheld a Bangalore-based couple’s right to vent their frustrations on the Bangalore Police Facebook page. The court ruled that it was a public forum and the commoner had every right to complain against the authorities.
Manik Taleja and his wife Sakshi Jawa met with an accident when their car collided with an auto in June last year. They were taken to a police station where an officer allegedly misbehaved and threatened them. The couple took to the Bangalore traffic police’s Facebook page and accused the officer of misbehavior.
Upset at the comment, the officer filed an FIR against the couple which included the charges of criminal intimidation and assault aimed at obstructing him from discharging his duty in Section 503 of the IPC. The couple approached the Karnataka High Court which refused to reject the FIR.
The couple contended that the Facebook page of Bengaluru traffic police was a public forum meant for citizens to discuss and post their grievances and it could not be prosecuted for posting comments against the officer for his misbehavior.
Accepting the couple’s submission, the bench quashed the FIR filed against them. “As far as the comments posted on Facebook are concerned, it appears that it is a public forum meant for helping the public and the act of appellants posting a comment on Facebook may not attract ingredients of criminal intimidation in Section 503 IPC,” the court said.
An act like this surely doesn’t add to the credible work the Bangalore Police has been doing on social media. But this puts across a point that social media isn’t a place to get only accolades, being trolled and bashed is a part of the medium too. Bangalore police should be prepared to tackle it; blocking accounts won’t serve the purpose. By doing so it is going to kill all the good done so far.
Of course online bullying and inflammatory comments aren’t acceptable in any civil society but it is the harsh reality of the darker side of the medium.
Image courtesy: Twitter