Delhi Police has decided to set up a dedicated centre to analyse content of various social media websites in an effort to monitor provocative postings and take preventive steps to check any negative fallout. The decision to set up the centre was taken in the backdrop of increasing influence of social media, which could be misused by anti-social elements. I wonder, how many times this type of initiative has been taken by the police in India. And most of the time its venture has flopped by all state cybercrime police. In India, Cybercrime cell officials are flooded with complaints that do not even have a sliver of connection with their field. They are handling cases of sexual harassment, threats and abuses because a cell phone was used. The cyber crime police diverts such cases back to police stations. In such complaints, NC (Non Cognizable offence) is being registered but no action taken on it, and if ever police wants to take any action then there is no special mechanism to deal with such issues in department. Police department lacks expertise to deal with cybercrimes. There is overt absence of cyber in these crimes and the nature of these offences are covered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. In a number of complaints, police official of different police stations transfer the cases to the cyber cell merely because the accused issued threats or abused someone over a cell phone. The cyber cell is here only to provide them assistance, like who was using the cell phone, on whose name the number was registered and what was the location of the offender at the time of incidence.
Recently, social media has turned little brutal in spreading violence and hate. Already the cyber crime cell is struggling hard to deal with complaints related to sexual harassment, abuse and offensive languages that the local police can directly deal with. Inciting hatred disseminated on social media is an ongoing dangerous trend. A hate campaign against one another, from a political party to a leader and journalist to a common user is on rise. There are many examples of how social media is slipping towards provocation and proliferating day by day. Some spread the false information to instigate hatred against each other. Many times, simple issues are made complicated and discussed in intensive ways. When arguments are harsher than the basic conversation, they start the quarrel. We have forgotten to debate with tolerance and with reasoning. Today, we are dividing on social network. We talk about unity, united nation and brotherhood but there are many issues which has alienated us in groups. Incitement to hatred can occur when an individual or group threatens to harass a person or a group of people because of their orientation or ideology. That could be in words, pictures, videos, and even music. It also includes information posted on websites. Laws are written to allow freedom of speech/expression and to define illegal content, there is no proper mechanism. Many times, people don’t register such complaints. For example, if you are against a leader or a political party, you raise the issues concerning her or his performance and governance, scams, scandals or brutality that they commit to this nation and its people. We are bypassing the freedom given to us and violating the rules calling our leaders waitress, mass murderer, MaunMohan to MaunModi etc.
The attacks are very much personal. However, even today such fabric does not seem to be illegal in our country. To find a solution for this issue, government launched an initiative whereby people at large protested against this. Only about 164.81 million Indians have access to the internet, and only 143.20 million over mobile phones according to official figures released by the Telecom and Regulatory Authority of India in March 2013. Given this scenario, both the reach in terms of positive and negative impact, is still quite limited in India. The prime minister, however, chose to focus on social media’s role on fanning hatred. The majority of chief ministers, then, favour social media regulation. Ideas thrown forward included taking action within the current legal framework, setting up ‘social media laboratories’ to monitor posts under intelligence departments and even mobilising NGOs and prominent citizens to counter social media anecdotes. Irony is that, most of these ministers who were endorsing restrictions on social network could not control their own workers going haywire on this platform. If these ministers or government brings censorship on social network, how will they promote their agenda? How will they survive without it? However, the real question is the kind of regulation India chooses to favour.
In China, a new law can charge people with defamation, if a false rumour started by them gets reposted over 500 times. In India, current laws allow citizens to go to court over information that has even caused them “annoyance” under Section 66A of the law. To ensure this is not abused, the government has now mandated that a senior police officer looks at individual cases before allowing charges to be filed to avoid nuisance cases. The Constitution of India allows for freedom of expression, although with restrictions. The potential for abuse is too great. Unfortunately, as it seems today – social media has become a war field. It is ‘virtual’ battle ground, forgetting that real world is also breathing here. Anyways, there are lots to talks on social network, like Maligning people, False Propaganda, Abuse and Threat, Fake Profiles; Non-political tweetrati’s suffer from censorship. One person holds multiple accounts, with no information. Remaining anonymous, they create ruckus and random assaults and harassment. In the world of viral promotions and millions of fake profiles, how can we ever truly measure the value of social media sites? There are two kinds of fake followers, one having multiple accounts by one user. They are active and take part in interactions. Another one is having twitter followers bot. They can add to the follower count but of no use. They get added and get dissolved, pretty much dummy followers. This will be a very interesting subject to discuss further. Now, under the new programme, police will monitor content on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s see, how this new proposal of Delhi Police to set up a dedicated centre to analyse content of various social media websites in an effort to monitor provocative postings and take preventive steps to check any negative fallout works. This proposal too gets diluted in official file, till some next such proposal erupts.