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‘Soft policing’ stops social media misuse in Assam

In the first week of June, when poultry shop owner Ahedul Ali suddenly began to post hateful Facebook messages targeting a religious community, the police in western Assam’s Barpeta district took less than 24 hours to locate the real culprit — footwear shop owner Jyotish Nath, who had hacked his former friend Ali’s Facebook account and posted the hate messages to settle a score.

Twenty days later, when something similar occurred on Twitter, the police in Nagaon district did not take much time to establish that one Ikramul Haque had created a fake account in the name of his brother-in-law, Jakir Hussain, and posted hate messages to get back at his estranged wife’s family, who had filed a case of domestic violence against him. Apart from threatening to blow up Guwahati on August 15, Haque had posted comments that could have triggered communal clashes ahead of the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens.

Troubled by the rising frequency of such incendiary social media posts, the Assam police have been experimenting with a slew of ‘soft policing’ tactics. These include making the local policemen campaign at weekly haat s or rural markets, where they would meet school and college students, parents and teachers, and motivate them to become informants on social media misuse.

 

Cyber cell staff say Facebook and Twitter are easier to track than WhatsApp. But police claim to have infiltrated several WhatsApp groups in order to get to the mischief makers. They have also befriended many group administrators.

“We have been asking our force to educate people about the greater good if they lead us to people misusing social media. This strategy has helped us make arrests quickly in cases of lynching, moral policing, and posting of hate messages,” said Director-General of Police (DGP)Kuladhar Saikia. In the Karbi Anglong lynching of June 8, police made 41 arrests within a week. Additional DGP Harmeet Singh, said his team found 100 inflammable accounts on Facebook and Twitter within a fortnight of the Karbi Anglong lynching.


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Printable version | May 15, 2022 12:10:23 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soft-policing-stops-social-media-misuse-in-assam/article61821246.ece