The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry plans to expand its analytics wing to monitor social media round-the-clock at a time when a slew of agitations have flared up, partly fueled by comments on the internet.
The decision is aimed at setting up an early warning system for possible flashpoints that the government may be unprepared for.
The social media analytics wing of the ministry currently scrutinizes posts on platforms like Twitter and Facebook and generates reports for the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Security Advisor’ s Office and various intelligence bureaus, aside from ministries including home affairs, external affairs and defence.
“The division runs seven days a week for 12 hours, including on all holidays, but there is a proposal to increase the work timing to ensure 24x7 coverage, which can help alert the government on sensitive matters,” said an official of the division.
The department has sought more funds and manpower for collating the critical information it picks up. However, it vehemently denies monitoring individual accounts; the mandate, it says, is to determine perceptions on various issues, including policy.
Social media reactions are categorised under positive, negative and neutral and are indicative of the sentiment of the masses, which officials said helps in decision making. Ministries can also commission special reports and analyses of big ticket events like the Prime Minister’s foreign visits, actions against terror attacks or response to policy which can impact internal security and external relations.
Sources told Hindustan Times that there is no consensus yet on setting up a centralised monitoring wing that will do a similar job on a larger scale. “There has been talk of setting up a cell for larger media monitoring, but the logistics have not been worked out. Besides, the work is already being done by the I&B Ministry,” a source said.
The social media analytics wing was started after the BJP-led NDA won the general elections in 2014 with a sweeping majority. It is aided by an agency that does the monitoring using software that can trawl as many as 40 million pages in an hour.