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17 Feb 2017

Tighten screw on social media rumour-mongering: CM to DGP... To crackdown inflammatory posts on Face Book Twitter

Saibal Sen | TNN | Updated: Feb 17, 2017,Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government has ordered a crackdown on inflammatory and unsubstantiated posts on the social network sites, mostly Facebook and Twitter. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked DGP Surajit Kar Purkayashtha to take "strong" action against the perpetrators, sources said. Mamata's explicit orders to the DGP came only a couple of days after a near-similar rumour snowballed into a largescale sectarian strife barely 30 km off Kolkata's southern fringes. Directing the police to identify the key conspirators, hiding behind the relatively legal vague shield that the social media offers, the CM has also asked officers to examine the provisions under which people, found fanning sectarian strife online, can be charged.
A preliminary probe suggested the posts and feeds on the sites followed a certain pattern and were linked to a group of individuals in Bengal as well as abroad; two of them—one with physical disabilities— from Bengal were suspected to be the brains behind the stormy posts. But the fact that the trails often led investigators to internet protocol (IP) addresses registered abroad proved to be a handicap for investigators.

The crackdown decision was taken with the chief minister being particularly worried with the increasing trend of adding communal colours to local fights. A case in point, sources said, was a brawl between neighbours over the parking of a motorcycle was turned into the picture of "a raging communal strife". Some classified reports shared with her appeared to suggest that some of comments, posts and images were circulated deliberately. In one case, sources said, a Facebook post of a religious building being damaged preceded the actual incident. The reports also showed the same group of people were behind putting up the inflammatory posts, initially. Investigators seemed to be firm on tracing these "initiators". The second layer was, however, slightly more haphazard, as the social media users acted only as "multipliers", commenting and sharing the posts and images.

The reports also showed that in two cases, inflammatory and unsubstantiated allegations, first made on Facebook, took Twitter by storm when clubbed with hashtag.

The Intelligence Branch has already set up a social media cell to keep a tab of such posts. Sources indicate the sleuths have cast a "net", comprising multiple social media accounts to snoop on posts and feeds. At the next level, sources indicated, the IB was enhancing the regulatory information-sharing mechanisms with Facebook and Twitter. "With both the companies having their wings in India now, regulatory bottlenecks has been considerably eased. We will try to cut down on the time needed to collate information. Such regulatory exchange has been streamlined for mobile-service providers," an official said.

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