The Jogulamba Gadwal district police in Telangana have launched a special drive to educate people in the rural areas against ‘fake news’ and rumours posted on social media, especially Whatsapp and Facebook. Officials are also regularly engaging with people and cautioning them against posting fake news and circulating rumours on social media.
Jogulamba Gadwal Superintendent of Police (SP) Rema Rajeshwari who launched the drive last week said that with the advent of smart phones and social media even people living in rural areas are getting affected by fake news and disinformation.
“People are being fed with continuous feeds of information through WhatsApp, Facebook etc with no way to determine the authenticity of the source or whether it is trustworthy. It has a direct impact on law and order as it has the potential to flare up a situation. That’s why I have decided to make educating people a part of our ongoing Community Outreach campaign. Our primary focus is to promptly respond with a rejoinder with correct facts and restoring sense of security among people. Next step is to initiate action on people who are behind spreading fake news,” she said.
A special police team has also been set up to constantly monitor local WhatsApp groups. Whenever a message having impact on law and order is shared on a group, the police PRO immediately responds to it and the group administrator is asked to take down the message.
The SP is also deputing sub-inspectors and Village Police Officers to each village to interact with villagers and educate and caution them to be aware of fake news and rumours. “We go around the villages and conduct citizen engagement programmes where we tell them not to believe in rumours spread through social media,” the SP said.
An incident that occurred last week in Ghattu village of the district underscored the dangers of fake news. Two folk singers were mistaken as child kidnapers and within a few hours their photos and description was circulated in Whatsapp in the mandal creating panic and a law and order situation. According to the SP, false news was spread that an inter-state gang was moving around the villages to kidnap children.
“We responded immediately by sending police force to the village. We verified the identity of the folk singers by getting in touch with the local sub inspector of their native village. Then we gathered the villagers and gave them the correct facts and allayed their fears,” she said.
“Another example is of communal incidents. We respond promptly and initiate legal action against people who spread hate mongering messages and false information, give correct information to the people and assure security,’’ SP Rema Rajeshwari said.