UP Police to appoint ‘digital volunteers’ to intercept provocative social messages


Uttar Pradesh Police have decided to keep a close eye on “communally-sensitive” messages that have the potential to disturb peace and communal harmony in the state.

To keep a tab on such messages, the UP Police is going to appoint “digital volunteers”, who will scan objectionable messages floating on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Google Plus and other social networking sites.

“Internet-savvy people active on social networking sites will be appointed as digital volunteers. A policeman using the internet will also be able to become a volunteer,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) A Satish Ganesh said in Lucknow.

Ganesh said policemen would also be imparted training to counter hate posts on these social platforms.

This idea was floated to pre-empt a repeat of the communal violence triggered by hate posts in districts like Bareilly, Firozabad and Moradabad districts in the recent past.

A month ago, a similar hate post circulated on WhatsApp messenger sparked tension in Saharanpur. Before that, messages on the Dadri incident where a Muslim man was lynched on suspicion of having eaten beef led to tension in the Gautam Buddh Nagar district.

These digital volunteers will check social media hate posts designed to disrupt peace in Uttar Pradesh, a communally-sensitive state that has witnessed clashes between religious groups over inflammatory online material in the past. These volunteers will make sure that people did not get carried away by such provocative messages.

The volunteers will also look for fundamentalist propaganda pushed by entities like the Islamic State terror group and other jihadi organisations.

The union home ministry recently directed the state government to block radical material posted by the Islamic State on social networking sites.

The UP Police have set up two “laboratories” — Social Media Command and Research Center at the DIG office in Meerut and the STF office in Lucknow — to handle such cases.

The police technical wing has set up a WhatsApp Surveillance cell, which can be contacted at 09454401002. At this number people can inform authorities about provocative posts as and when they come across any.