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Lynching incidents: Police to launch campaign to avert spread of online rumours

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Concerned over a string of lynching incidents in Maharashtra, the police have decided to launch a campaign to check the spread of rumours on social media and come up with new ways to deal with the menace.

The move comes days after five people were killed in North Maharashtra’s Dhule district over child-lifting rumours on social media.

As part of the campaign, the police will devise models to focus on sensitising people about fake videos, messages and posts whose authenticity is in doubt and can cause social unrest, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police Datta Padsalgikar said.

WhatsApp, the popular instant messaging service, was also cooperating with the government in checking the rumour menace, Padsalgikar said.

Mob violence and lynching triggered by rumours have claimed 10 lives in 14 incidents in Maharashtra in the past one-and-a-half months.

On July 1, five people were lynched by a mob in Dhule on the suspicion of being child-lifters, sending shock waves through the state.

To curb such incidents, the unit commanders of the two-lakh strong state police force will be empowered to create models of their own to fight rumour-mongering, said Padsalgikar, who recently took charge as the DGP.

The best model devised by a district or a city will be replicated across the state, Padsalgikar said, adding that the police were keen on having some unique and effective solutions to fight the rumour menace.

“The idea is to tell people to avoid forwarding videos and posts which can disturb peace and harmony in any way,” he said.

Instructions have been issued to Superintendents of Police (SPs) and police commissioners about this, he added.

Besides, as part of the recommended guidelines, posters were being distributed across villages and SPs were asked to hold community meetings, he said.

“We are also taking help from social media to send across a message to the public about what to share and what not to share on apps. Some online groups and forums are also helping us in this,” the DGP said.

“WhatsApp is also lending a helping hand in sensitising people. All these measures are being taken at the government-level,” he said.

Padsalgikar also appealed to people to come forward and report to the police any post which, they feel, could pose a problem in society, instead of forwarding it without verification.

Enquiries have been initiated about some videos which have already come to the police’s notice, he said, adding that a majority of such clippings have been found to be “manipulated”.

“These kinds of forwards can create serious problems. Stern action will be taken against those who are found forwarding such posts,” he said.

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