Mumbai Police pulls down 45,000 objectionable posts from social media, registers 12 FIRs

A police officer said during this period, 41,081 inflammatory posts were found to be communal in nature and many had the potential of triggering communal unrest
Social Media Lab (SML) of the Mumbai Police in the past one year initiated action against 45,000 highly provocative, hateful, sensitive and objectionable posts from various social media platforms. (Shutterstock)
Social Media Lab (SML) of the Mumbai Police in the past one year initiated action against 45,000 highly provocative, hateful, sensitive and objectionable posts from various social media platforms. (Shutterstock)
Published on Oct 20, 2021 11:13 PM IST
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ByVijay Kumar Yadav, Mumbai

Social Media Lab (SML) of the Mumbai Police in the past one year initiated action against 45,000 highly provocative, hateful, sensitive and objectionable posts from various social media platforms and got 26,825 of those posts either blocked or deleted. Blocking or deleting the remaining objectionable posts is still under process.

The lab has also registered 12 first information reports (FIR) at various police stations in Mumbai against people found spreading rumours during the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or National Register of Citizens (NRC) agitations, Covid-19 pandemic, and against those who were spreading religious rifts in society, spreading anti-police sentiments and terror threatening messages in the past two years.

A police officer said during this period, 41,081 inflammatory posts were found to be communal in nature and many had the potential of triggering communal unrest. “Other 1,820 posts were related to terrorism or extreme acts (videos and posts showing terrorists beheading people, content promoting terrorists activities etc.),” the officer added.

The police during the digital scanning of various platforms also detected a large number of posts containing gross misinformation, fake news and rumours related to Covid-19 and pulled down 1,855 such posts from the digital space.

The task is carried out by the SML of the special branch-1 (SB-1) which is entrusted with the duty of conducting digital patrolling.

“Terrorist, anti-nationals and anti-social elements have extended their area of functioning and reach. For terror activities and spreading their web, they use cyberspace, cyber technologies, advanced computers, networks and social media. Our social media lab acted against such content online and got them blocked or deleted, following due procedure of law,” said a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) rank officer.

The lab keeps 24×7 vigil on digital platforms, keep surveillance on the online activities of people who might incite or drive others into communal violence, anti-government activities, anti-social activities, etc. thus creating unrest in the city and its peripherals.

The lab’s functioning involves timely identifying potential trouble makers, detecting inflammatory contents/posts and getting them blocked with the help of the service providers, ensuring that it is stopped at a very early stage and do not spread or get viral.

Officers at the intelligence wing have also observed a significant dip in a number of objectionable content, fake news, rumours and hate messages being uploaded on social media platforms in the recent past. Last year (up to September 2020) the social media lab had identified nearly 35,700 objectionable posts that had the potential of triggering untoward incidents. This year, till September the number of objectionable and provocative posts declined to 31,292.

Officers posted at the social media lab attributes the decline to major service providers adopting the more serious approach in dealing with such content. “Now major service providers such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube respond to police requests for taking down certain objectionable or inflammatory posts comparatively in lesser time. With the introduction of the new IT Rules by the Central government, service providers have started keeping stringent checks on objectionable content online and service providers are now voluntarily taking action on such content,” said another SML officer.

And now as netizens are also much aware that their account can be blocked or deactivated for a lifetime, they refrain from uploading objectionable posts after receiving the first warning from the service providers, the officers at the lab added.

“Besides keeping an eye on those who could disturb communal harmony or peace, policemen at the Social Media Lab also protect women from social media bullying, cyberstalking, phishing profiles, cyber fraudsters, fake matrimonial profiles, etc. Online miscreants’ posts defamatory material about women and out staff at the lab search and block such defamatory material, thus preventing online crimes against women,” said an IPS officer.

The state cyber police too detected 10,067 objectionable posts and got nearly 5,000 of them blocked or deleted during the past one year. The process of pulling down the rest of the objectionable posts is underway, said an officer.

How it’s done:

A team of 25 highly trained, technologically sound, multilingual police personnel work in three shifts to keep an eye on various social media platforms 24x7. The SML members search for objectionable content on the internet by putting keywords like terrorism, jihad, attacks, names of radical groups or individuals, etc. The online activity on popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. is scanned with the help of advanced computer programs and tools. These programs also detect terror messages in Arabic, said a police officer, requesting anonymity.

When some problematic content is identified by the Social Media Lab (SML), it is referred to either the additional commissioner of police or the deputy commissioner of police of Special Branch, who in turn approve the post for sending a request to the concerned service provider under section 91 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and request them to remove or block the content.

“The service providers do not accept all our requests, as they adhere to their local laws. But, in cases related to terrorism or any other emergency, they usually accept our request and promptly remove the content from their platforms immediately. They also follow a verification process before taking down the content,” said the officer.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021