The next time you join a web forum to lodge a protest over an issue that’s gripping the nation, watch what you say.
The Internet might have been the easiest — and safest — way to air an opinion, but the police are now equally active on online portals, and could take you to task if what you posted sparks off some tension.
With help from Nasscom, the Mumbai police recently started a social media lab to understand the “pulse” of netizens. Teams of sixteen trained police officers are currently associated with the lab.
They have promised not to interfere with people’s privacy, but use the excuse of the need for better policing for sifting through your posts.
“We are trying to gauge the mood of the public to get feedback. We should be aware of what is going on and the issues that need to be addressed,” said Naval Bajaj, additional commissioner of police, special branch-1.
Asked whether any objectionable posts would be blocked, Bajaj clarified that this is not their priority and the focus is on better governance. “There is a cyber cell to monitor objectionable posts. In case we come across something problematic that could lead to a law and order issue, we will alert them,” he said.
Deputy commissioner of police, special branch 1, Sanjay Shintre said, “We will not check the posts of private individuals. We will keep an eye on open forums to monitor any content there that could lead to problems in the city.” He added, “For example, if there is trouble in one part of the country, and someone tries to put up messages on a public forum that could incite violence in other places, we will be in the loop and ensure that there is no unrest.”
An officer who did not wish to be identified described the cell as the virtual extension of a mandate that the special branch – 1 has, which requires them to collect information.
Experts said the move will also help the police understand online content and deal with it better.
“The social media lab will familiarise the police with social networking sites and their contents,” said Vicky Shah, a cyber security professional. “In case technology is misused through something like objectionable posts, trained policemen will initiate steps and remedies.”
Watch what you say online, or face consequences