How does one prevent hate speeches and inflammatory videos from being shared through applications like WhatsApp and on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)? Well, that's what has stumped poll officials.
Having pronounced a strict code of conduct on use and misuse of social media during the Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission (EC) is now faced with an unprecedented situation. This, officials say, is because the poll panel has not found ways to stop and prevent hate speeches, promotional campaigns or inflammatory videos from finding its way into public discourse through applications like WhatsApp and on BBM.
Senior poll panel officials confirmed the threat this poses to peaceful conduct and level playing field to all political players. They say they are in talks with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and other security agencies to "figure out on what can be done best and swiftly". "This is a situation we have at hand and we are trying to deal with it," confided a senior election commission official. He, however, added that the commission is working to find a solution.
For now, the police in Uttar Pradesh, has found a new way.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (Public grievances), Satish Ganesh, says people found in possession of such clips would be hauled up and booked under various sections of the Indian penal Code (IPC). The holder of such inflammatory clips, jokes, messages, campaigns on these modules may invite serious charges as holding them will be tantamount to disruption of public peace and harmony, Ganesh told IANS.
He added they will be dividing the cases in which such complaints are received in two categories. The first category is one whose mobile phones carry such video clips and the second category is one who forwards it to others.
Both acts are punishable and people will be booked for them, an official added. The decision of the state police has the endorsement of the poll panel, which says its mandate is to "ensure peaceful elections" and "anything that contributes to this is a welcome step".
A separate cell has also been formed to keep a tab on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and tech savvy officials have been asked to keep vigil on the material being posted on walls "across the board". The cell will keep an eye on the FB accounts and Twitter handles of political leaders and candidates of all parties. EC officials say this has been done to ensure that no promotional campaigns without clearance from them finds its way into the virtual world. "EC guidelines have to be adhered to in toto and we will do all that is needed for the same," said Umesh Sinha, chief electoral officer (CEO) of Uttar Pradesh.
As the poll panel and the security agencies sharpen their knives, the users will be haunted by the spectre of being booked for something so common - forwarding messages and clips!