Meghalaya Police to fight online rumours using same weapon – Social media


By Ibankyntiew Mawrie | Shillong, June 14, 2018:

With social media continuing to become a cause of concern for the enforcing agencies, considering the number of cases being blown out of proportion across the state, due to irresponsible usage of the internet, the Meghalaya Police is coming up with a strategy to tackle this problem in the virtual world.

With the internet being restored in Shillong and other districts of the state after 13 days of suspension, the police are keeping a close watch on rumour-mongering on social media to prevent any repetition of the May 31 violent clash at Motphran.

"Social media is a double-edged weapon. While it has revolutionised the information and communication sector, it is also very dangerous in the hands of irresponsible social media users, who take advantage of the situation by spreading fake news and propaganda, with an intention to create an uprising," Special Superintendent of Police (SSP) CID, Meghalaya, R Muthu told The Northeast Today here on Thursday.

While terming this as another social and psychological issue which is plaguing the society, Muthu said that the department will use the same weapon – social media to fight against fake news and rumour mongering.

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"We already have a Cyber Assistance Cell in the department and a basic social media monitoring cell. Within a week or two, we are thinking of making our presence felt in virtual platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp to communicate and intimate information on real time basis with the people so as to clear their doubts in case any rumours which threatens the security of the state and the country are doing the rounds," said the SSP CID.

Elaborating on this, Muthu explained that there is a need for the authorities, be it the government or police to immediately response and clarify doubtful messages being shared on social media. "It is a very challenging task. It will not be easy especially in putting a stop to rumours shared in Whatsapp as it has a end-to-end encryption feature," he said.

SSP (CID), Meghalaya, R Muthu

"Rumours on social media have become a big monster growing before our eyes," said Muthu adding that it has successfully managed to wreak havoc not only in Meghalaya and Northeast but across the country.

Stating that this issue needs to be looked at from another perspective, the senior police official said that this menace has to be checked and this can only be done through the cooperation of all sections of the society, starting from parents to local authorities.

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"We are at an initial stage of developing an online forum to issue quick response and clarification to the public on any doubtful comments or messages with the potential to create troubles," said Muthu.

It may be mentioned that Shillong was on the boil for 5 long days following a skirmish between two groups at Them Iew Mawlong on May 31. The issue was blown out of proportion after rumour on the death of one of the assaulted victims (local boy) started doing its round.

The mayhem arising out of rumours prompted the state government to suspend mobile internet service and SMS for 13 straight days. It was only on Wednesday that the services were restored, much to the relief of the residents of Shillong and the rest of the state.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya police is also setting up a cyber cell aimed to remove video contents of child pornography, rape and gang rape from online platform. This move is in line with the direction issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

It may be reminded that the Supreme Court, had on October last year, directed the MHA to set up a cyber cell to deal with such issues. And recently, the MHA directed all the state to set up a cyber assistance cell to register complaints pertaining to such contents, online.

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Beyond Shillong, rumours have also managed to create a sense of fear and discomfort amongst the residents of Nagaland after rumours on organ thieves roaming free in the state, started doing the rounds on social media. The same was, however, clarified. Thanks to the quick response by Nagaland police who immediately issued a release asking people not to believe in such doubtful information being shared on social media.

Unfortunately, in Assam, two lives were lost because of rumours. Two Guwahati youths were lynched to death last week on suspicions of being child lifters. Only later was it revealed that the rumour was spread by one person, who was previously involved in a scuffle with the deceased youths during the day. To get even, the accused spread the rumour that these two youths were child lifters and had kidnapped a local girl.

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