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Social media cops on the prowl: Over 450 posts, sites deleted

The Social Media Lab and Cyber Cell of the Mumbai police deleted 451 online posts this year, ranging from calls to youth to join terrorist groups to pages defaming gods and national leaders

Having learnt a lesson from the rampage and clashes in the city, Pune and other parts of the state after objectionable photos of Maratha king Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were uploaded in May, the Mumbai Police’s Social Media Laboratory and Cyber Cell have deleted around 451 objectionable posts this year, which could have created an adverse law-and-order situation in the country.

In June this year, one person was killed in the riots that broke out in Pune after derogatory photographs of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook. File pic
In June this year, one person was killed in the riots that broke out in Pune after derogatory photographs of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray were posted on Facebook. File pic

The police said continuous cyber patrolling by the Social Media Laboratory and the complaints received from different people helped them delete the posts, many of which were Facebook pages motivating youth to take up jihad, videos by jihadi leaders and vulgar posts and pages defaming national leaders and gods.

The police have created search engine optimisers that have key hate words configured to help police quickly find hate speeches. Representation pic/Getty ImagesThe police have created search engine optimisers that have key hate words configured to help police quickly find hate speeches. Representation pic/Getty Images

After the objectionable photos of Shivaji had appeared late in May, 24-year-old techie Mohsin Shaikh was killed by a mob in Pune. In 2012, the Delhi police had been unable to anticipate the protest after the gruesome Nirbhaya rape case, in which most of the protesters had gathered through a Facebook campaign. That was when the Mumbai police decided to set up a Social Media Laboratory to monitor and patrol cyberspace.

The Media Laboratory comes under the purview of the Mumbai Police Special Branch, which keeps a watch on all political parties and communities that might lead to an adverse law-and-order situation in the country. “Around five to six people monitor the web 24x7 to keep to keep an eye on all types of activities and groups.

We have also allocated a number 98208 10007 where people can complain about objectionable posts and malicious material on the Internet that can cause problems in the country. After reviewing the material, we can get it removed by writing to the concerned agency,” said DCP (Crime Branch) and Mumbai Police Spokesperson, Dhananjay Kulkarni.

Since January, the police have deleted around 451 different Facebook pages, websites and videos. “Some videos we deleted were objectionable; some could have led youth down wrong paths and others could have created an adverse law-and-order situation in the country. We have also deleted several Facebook pages,” said Kulkarni.

Modus operandi
The police have created search engine optimisers that have key hate words configured to help police quickly find hate speeches. After receiving complaints about, or finding, something objectionable, the police write to the concerned companies, like Facebook, Google and others, that run the websites. “Most of the times, the posts are removed in less than six hours, and further damage is avoided,” said Kulkarni.

Getting the Internet Protocol (IP) address and tracing the accused, however, takes much longer. “The companies/agencies ask us to get a letter regoratory (requesting evidence and judical help) from the Indian government before reverting with the IP address,” said Kulkarni.

Sometimes, companies don’t reveal the IP addresses, as they are afraid that if they start revealing people’s details, they might lose their user base. Most of the times, the IP addresses are from foreign countries, like Pakistan, said sources.

Training for all
Kulkarni said the Mumbai police are aware that criminal activities on cyberspace will only increase in the future. “The whole Mumbai police gets basic training in web-related activities, so that they can register a case under the Information Technology Act, but officers from our Cyber Cell have even got training from the Global Intellectual Property Academy, Virginia, USA,” said Kulkarni.

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