To keep tabs on unlawful content as well as for a social media image makeover, the Delhi Police is set to create an “IT cell”, which will have contractual employees — mostly young graduates — with a background in information technology and experience in handling social media.
DCP (Special Branch) Suman Nalwa told The Indian Express that initially, they will start the cell as a pilot project for three months, and go ahead based on the results. “The employees will find and flag unlawful content on social media… and we can take appropriate action against the user. We only look into unlawful content at the Special Branch — posts which might cause a law and order situation in terms of disharmony in society or something that might instigate communal situations,” she said.
“We have been allocated Rs 25 lakh to run this project and are waiting for approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs. We are one of the first to hire young IT consultants, with help from a private company, who are either pursuing their masters or have worked at private IT firms,” she said.
According to police, senior officers also realised the importance of setting up an IT cell during the Northeast Delhi riots, when some unknown users, including from Pakistan, posted fake “alerts” about the riots and tagged Delhi Police to “tarnish their image”. “And before the riots, activists and students coordinated where to gather by sharing messages on social media. Most of the time, officers in districts or the special branch got to know only a few hours before the gathering,” a senior officer said.
An official said the issue was also discussed a few months ago by the Delhi Police Commissioner with other officers and initially it was proposed to hire a consultant from a public sector undertaking for a particular period. “After several rounds of discussion, it was decided to hire a private consultant, following government rules,” the officer said.
Later, a tender was floated and the consultant was asked to shortlist people for an interview. “100 people were shortlisted after their resumes were scanned from online job portals; they appeared for an online interview with senior officers of the Special Branch. They were asked about their perception of the Delhi Police, their point of view over the police action during the riots, and what they would do if they got the job,” an officer said.
Out of the 100, 15-17 people were shortlisted. Two of them, who will be given the designation of “perception manager”, will lead the team, said police.
“They were recently called to the police HQ, where the police chief met them and conveyed that the force needs a strong presence on all social media platforms to counter misleading information by anti-social elements. Apart from working under the special branch, they have been asked to coordinate with the Delhi Police spokesperson. They have also been told to keep an eye on posts and media reports related to the police, so they can flag it to the PRO in case there’s something adverse. Some of the people who have been hired are content advisors, who earlier worked with other websites. They will highlight the police’s good work through catchy posts,” the officer added.