Ahead of Ayodhya verdict, Maharashtra police, social media firms to tackle hate content in real time

Updated: 09 November, 2019 07:33 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

Legal teams from WhatsApp, Facebook and Instragram guide officers on dealing with inflammatory content during seminar.

All those sharing inflammatory content will have to face the law, officers have warned. Representation pic
All those sharing inflammatory content will have to face the law, officers have warned. Representation pic

Ahead of the Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict, Maharashtra Police's Cyber wing is in the process of partnering with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms to block or pulling down content inciting hatred, intending to disturb communal harmony or create adverse law and order situations. A daylong seminar was conducted at the Mantralaya on Friday where legal teams of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram guided over 50 police officers from all districts and commissionerates on how to deal with inflammatory content.

A dedicated team has been formed by the Cyber department to keep a close eye on social media accounts which may try to disturb harmony, especially in Mumbai, which witnessed the 1993 communal riots.

"We are in the process of partnering with Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, which will help us block inflammatory content before it has the chance to get viral on social media sites," Special Inspector General Brijesh Singh (Cyber) told mid-day.

The direct partnership with major social media platforms will help the state's Cyber department track information in real-time and process it immediately. "Usually, when we track inflammatory content, the process of blocking it involves sending emails or following a set legal process, which takes time." Singh added.

The department will be using advanced analytics to track social media once the verdict is out. "We appeal people to not share content which violates the law, such as fake news and rumours. Individuals or groups sharing such material on their timelines will have to face the law," Singh added.
Data to be preserved, shared Singh, who heads the wing, added that suspicious and inflammatory content will be preserved and shared with local police to locate offending persons.

In addition, accounts with Indian usernames and handles but originating from outside the country will be monitored specifically. "During such big events, especially when people's sentiments and emotions are involved, we have found several social media handles aiming to take advantage of the situation by spreading rumours, fake news, videos, posters and cartoons. Once the content is out, the whole system gets involved in making it viral. For instance, during the Aarey protests, some social media accounts from Pakistan were found tweeting unrelated content in Marathi during," a senior officer said.

Maharashtra's Director General of Police (DGP) too instructed city commissionerates and district IGs to keep watch on social media. "All the necessary steps are being taken to maintain law and order in Mumbai and the state," a senior IPS officer from Maharashtra Police said. The state police are also deploying 10,000 SRPF men across the state. Mumbai will have seven SRPF companies.

Eye on photocopy shops

Sources at police station-level told mid-day that the top brass of Mumbai Police have asked all regional heads and zonal Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCP) to "sensitise owners of photocopy shops and makers of banners/posters regarding the upcoming verdict on Ayodhya".

"The Police Inspectors (Admin) at every police station have to conduct meetings with these businessmen and ask them to alert police immediately if anyone approaches them to make banners having inflammatory content," said a senior officer of Mumbai police.

"Officers have been asked to share their direct contact numbers so that citizens can immediately alert us about suspicious events," the officer concluded.

No. of SRPF companies to be deployed in Mumbai

With inputs from Diwakar Sharma

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First Published: 09 November, 2019 05:40 IST

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