Possession And Sharing Of Inflammatory Content On WhatsApp Might Get You Arrested In Uttar Pradesh

To curb inflammatory content being shared on WhatsApp and BBM, UP police plans to put offenders behind bars and Elections Commission of India has supported it



With the political parties waging a war on a different turf for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is still preparing itself to overcome another war. From the 16th Lok Sabha Elections the ECI has the mammoth task of monitoring the social media.

While the ECI has drafted social media guidelines for the political parties and their supporters, it remains clueless to stop and prevent hate speeches, promotional campaigns or inflammatory videos from finding its way into public discourse through applications like WhatsApp and on BBM.

It is being said that to overcome the issue, ECI is in talks with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and other security agencies to “figure out on what can be done best and swiftly”.

Meanwhile, the police of Uttar Pradesh has cracked a way to control the issue.

According to Deputy Inspector General of Police (Public grievances), Satish Ganesh, people found in possession of such clips would be hauled up and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Ganesh added that the department would be dividing the cases in two categories. The first category is one whose mobile phones carry such video clips and the second category is one who forwards it to others.

Both the acts are punishable and people will be booked for them.

The decision of the UP police has received appreciation from the poll panel, which says its mandate is to “ensure peaceful elections” and “anything that contributes to this is a welcome step”.

ECI has formed a separate cell to keep a tab on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and tech savvy officials have been asked to keep vigil on the material being posted on walls “across the board”.

I have previously debated why ECI has a tough task in its hand of monitoring social media. But the latest method of UP police trying to monitor WhatsApp and BBM makes no sense. Blackberry already has a server in India but WhatsApp has none, wonder how does the police plan to monitor content?

In fact the current Indian government had raised a request against US to share its technology on how to decrypt conversations over various services like Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, Wechat and Blackberry messenger. We haven’t heard any development on this front.

Is the UP police planning to scan through mobiles manually if one reports that a certain individual is in possession of xyz content. Are we going to see arrests because someone shared a spoof on WhatsApp/BBM, what if I share via WeChat?

While we proudly share stories on how the Indian police is leveraging social and messaging apps to maintain law and order, the current plan of UP police to throw people behind bars because they shared a funny spoof or joke is baffling.

Image credit: Media Salon