In the wake of the riots in north-east Delhi, the AAP government is planning to launch a campaign against the use of WhatsApp in spreading misinformation and hateful messages, which the Delhi Police has identified as one of the factors that aided in the communal flare up.
Senior officials attached with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office informed that a dedicated number will be launched in which people can share such viral messages, along with the name and number of the sender. The identity of the complainant will be kept secret, an official said.
As part of the campaign, advertisements will also be issued, making people aware of the penal provisions that govern offences related to promoting or circulating such material. Officials pointed out that forwarding any such material can land a person in jail for up to three years under IPC 153A and 505(1)(c).
“We are planning a crackdown on such WhatsApp messages. The campaign will include appeals to not share any such material. And people will also be requested to share the source of such messages, along with names and contacts,” an official said, on condition of anonymity.
A dedicated team will also be formed to go through the messages received on its helpline, an official said and added: “This team will filter the messages and forward those that require penal action to the police.”
The government may also reach out to WhatsApp as part of the initiative to flush out hateful content from its platform, it is learnt. However, it has not yet been decided as to under which department the team will function.
On Friday, the Delhi Police had said it was constantly monitoring social media for hateful content and said, “In the wake of incidents of stone pelting, arson and damage to property in some pockets of North-East Delhi area, a lot of hate material is being circulated on social media to flare up communal tension, which is an offence under the law. Delhi Police is constantly monitoring social media and will take strict legal action against those found indulging in it. People are hereby advised not to post anything incriminating. If they come across any such hate material, they may complain at CYBER HELPLINE – 155260.”
Among other relief measures, nine shelters have been set up for the riot-affected people.
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