In Maharashtra 132 cases registered since lockdown, cyber police issues advisory for WhatsApp users
Geetanjali Minhas | April 9, 2020 | Mumbai
Amid exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 outbreak and the 21-day nationwide lockdown, authorities are trying to discourage spread of rumours and misinformation through social media.
Maharashtra Cyber Police came out with an advisory for WhatsApp users and admins during the COVID-19, even as WhatApp earlier this week tightened its message forwarding restrictions.
The cybercrime officials have instructed citizens to refrain from posting, sharing, forwarding and disseminating any message, content, pictures, photos, videos or anything that could promote enmity on grounds of religion, nationality, race, language and other grounds of discrimination or disrupt public order, decency and morality.
The advisory instructs admins of messaging platforms to inform all the group members about the rules of posting in the group, warn all members and prevent them from sharing objectionable content and actively and regularly monitor content that is being shared on the group. “It is advisable that if the group is uncontrollable then the group settings can be changed to only where admins have the right to post and inform police if any members resort to mischief and share objectionable content.”
For members of groups in messaging platforms the cyber police has warned not to post fake news, hate speech, misinformation nor forward or circulate such news received from other members of the group but to report it on www.cybercrime.gov.in. It has urged members to check the source and veracity of any news/image/video/meme they receive before positing it on the group. “Never share any content that is violent, pornographic and discriminative against any religion or community,” says the advisory.
The state has warned offenders of action under the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act, Disaster Management Act, The Bombay Police Act 1951 and Sections 144 and 144 (3) of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 where orders by the district magistrate against such WhatsApp group can be passed. “These orders can direct the group settings to be changed so that only WhatsApp group admins and owners can send messages. Even after this setting if there are any messages sent on the group which are fake, insulting any religion, spreading hatred, bigotry messages which may create communal tensions, the admins and group owners would be held solely liable,” says the advisory.
Balsingh Rajput, Superintendent of Police, Maharashtra Cyber, said: “On Tuesday out of 20 FIRs were registered in the state for spreading fake news, rumors and hate speech on social media and other online channels, 14 cases are communal in nature and six are rumors about corona epidemics. Five cases were registered at Jalna, 1 each at Usmanabad and Hingoli, two at Buldhana, 10 at Beed, one each at Nashik city and Amaravati and nine at Kolhapur. Since the lockdown till date, a total of 132 cases have been registered regarding fake news, rumors and hate speech over social media in Maharashtra. During the last five days there is increase in hate speech and communal crimes over social media. Out of the total 132, there are 49 cases about hate speech over social media. 35 accused have been arrested and 28 identified.”
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