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Farm laws: To combat fake news, ‘IT Cell’ launched by protesters

Upadhyay is currently lodged in Tihar Jail while police have completed the process of speaking to other gurus and students at the Kendra.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | New Delhi | December 20, 2020 4:39:54 am
Farmer's protest against the new farm laws at Singhu Border, New Delhi.

At Singhu, farmer organisations have designated an ‘IT cell’ which they say is to counter any misinformation online about the protests. Comprising over 25 online and 35 ‘offline’ volunteers, the cell works round the clock, monitoring online discussions and “fake news” about farmer protests. The cell has also created the handle — Kisan Ekta Morcha — across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, reaching lakhs within three days of inception.

“Many senior farmer leaders were having a discussion and we came to the conclusion that we need to tackle misinformation on the internet. There is a concerted effort to malign our movement and show it in a bad light,” said Baljeet Singh (30), who heads the IT cell.

The cell doesn’t have a dedicated ‘war room’ since most members work from home, while at the border protest site, Singh and two others have two laptops they use. Most of the online volunteers hail from Punjab, while some are from Delhi.

The members handle individual social media accounts, putting out information about the protests through the day, including posters and logos of the day’s events. Members also discuss and put out counters to videos or posts showing protesters in a bad light.

“Fake news is spreading faster than ever. Most recently, images of Khalistani posters from a foreign country had been photoshopped to make it appear like they were being used in our protests. Immediately, we put out a clarification exposing the lies. This is very important to do as the reach of these posts is high and they can derail the movement,” said Singh, who has a background in information technology.

‘Offline volunteers’ handle tasks such as recording speeches made during the day. At 8 am, the agenda for the day is decided, which includes the topic on which speeches will be made. Volunteers on the ground also handle the tech required behind streaming events online. Members of the cell have also rented a leased line for better internet connectivity. “All of us are volunteers, we are not paid a single penny. We do it because we are also farmers. And this movement must not be weakened by rumours and wrong information,” said Singh.

The IT cell was officially launched at a press conference three days ago in the presence of senior farmer leaders, who said it was an important platform to relay authentic and official information about the protests.

“By launching this, we have shown that we are also digital. Baljeet Singh and other youngsters will give a fight to the IT wings created by the government themselves. This will help the movement immensely,” said Manjit Singh of BKU (Doaba) during the launch.

 

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