The recently concluded day long National Integration Council meeting held in the national capital seems to have concentrated on one agenda of controlling social media. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi which was attended by a 148-member body that included Union Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament, chief ministers, leaders of national and regional political parties, and eminent people from media, etc.
Speaking at the gathering, Urban Development Minister, DB Thapa informed that The Sikkim government has set up an exclusive cell in the police department to engage with the public on social media on a regular basis. As reported by Zeenews India, the move has been taken by the authorities to counter any hate propaganda and rumour which the medium is supposed to do.
Talking more about the initiative, the minister informed that the Sikkim government has designated nodal officers for monitoring the content of social networking sites to take immediate action against any false propaganda. However, there have been no further details on the mechanism of monitoring nor did it highlight any recent case wherein the medium had instigated any rumor or hate propaganda.
In fact the Mumbai Police Department was the first in the country to think of monitoring online activities of netizens beginning this year. In March it inaugurated its “Social Media Lab” (SML) , with the aim to keep tabs on the sentiments and activities happening on social media. Later on it was also revealed that the Mumbai Police is going to use the tool provided by SocialAppsHQ for its SML.
Earlier in this month, Delhi Police also decided to walk the same path and we had last heard it was looking for vendors for its Social Media monitoring system to track the online activities and social activities of criminals, terrorists and anti-social elements and at the same time gather insights to improve criminal investigation process with a faster response time. However, none of these administrative cells talk about engaging on social with the public unlike the claims of Sikkim state government.
Lately, social media is under debate by the respected politicians of the country who feel that the medium is responsible for instigating hatred among various communities leading to flaring up of communal tensions. During the NIC meeting, similar concerns for social media had been shared by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and our PM too.
Speaking at the gathering, the PM shared that the recent communal violence in some cases have brought to notice circulation of fake videos aimed at inciting the feeling of hatred in one community towards the other while comparing the present riots in UP with the 2012 Northeast tensions.
It would be interesting to observe the measures the government takes in controlling social media, considering the backlash the present government had to face on such measures last year. There has been a suggestion from Andhra Pradesh CM Reddy to compel social networking sites to set up local servers. Though India has set up its own PRISM like replica for monitoring mobile and online activities of people but pushing tech giants to set up their local servers here would also be on its agenda.