The Maharashtra cyber police has arrested 342 people since the beginning of the pandemic last year for circulating misinformation, including in the form of social media posts, creating panic or peddling fake cures related to Covid-19.
Besides, the cyber police managed to get 138 posts deleted during the past year.
When it came to social media platforms, Facebook and WhatsApp topped the list of outlets used to spread misinformation, with 344 and 316 cases registered respectively. Twitter and Instagram had 26 and 34 cases respectively of their platform being used to spread fake information, according to findings of the statistics shared by the Maharashtra Cyber police for offences registered till Sunday.
Since April 2020, the Cyber police had been proactively seeking and registering cases against misinformation related to Covid-19 that they felt had led to law and order problems or had the capacity to create social unrest.
Those booked include people who shared false information about medicines used in Covid treatment such as availability of remdesivir in the black market among others.
Among the districts, Beed reported the highest number of cases with 68 cases registered till this Sunday related to social media posts. The Indian Express had reported last year about a social media cell being created by the Beed police to specifically monitor messages on such platforms.
The unit had been registering FIRs on its own in several instances. Besides Beed, Pune (rural) registered 59 cases, Jalgaon 48 cases, Mumbai cyber police 37 cases and Thane police 35 cases of fake social media posts related to Covid-19.
An officer from Maharashtra Cyber said, “As compared to last year, the number of such cases has gone down. However, we have seen that when there is high demand for a specific thing, such as remdesivir, fraudsters use the internet to sell it in black or cheat people. That is when the number of cases filed begins to rise.”