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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Cops click on cyber battle front with digital army, social media war room

Digital volunteers will help the UP police keep a hawk eye on cyberspace and stop troublemakers in their tracks during the Lok Sabha election.

lucknow Updated: Mar 30, 2019 11:52 IST
Rohit K Singh
Rohit K Singh
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
UP police have launched  a major exercise to take on spread of fake news during elections.
UP police have launched a major exercise to take on spread of fake news during elections.(HT File Photo)

Digital volunteers will help the UP police keep a hawk eye on cyberspace and stop troublemakers in their tracks during the Lok Sabha election.

Thus, over four lakh digital volunteers across 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh will enable the the state police penetrate into different WhatsApp groups, facebook, telegram and other social media platforms in the poll season.

Dwelling on the plan, director general of police (DGP) OP Singh said the state police were ready with their social media war room to curb misuse of online platforms during the election period.

He said the state police had formed a wide base of its digital volunteers across different districts since July last year.

This ‘digital army’ will comprise 250 volunteers on WhatsApp from each of the 1,469 police stations in zones across the state. Moreover, over 50,000 digital volunteers were linked to the police through other social media platforms, he added.

Singh said these digital volunteers in different localities and areas were already feeding information related to several issues and happenings across the state.

The social media labs of UP Anti Terror Squad (ATS), the Special Task Force (STF) and other cyber media cells were engaged too, he said.

Insepctor general, UP (ATS), Asim Arun said, “Social media is a powerful tool that can strengthen democracy, but it can also be misused. UP Police is utilising its positive potential and is fully geared to prevent the misuse of such social media platforms.”



Explaining social media vigil, a senior IPS official associated with a social media lab of the state police said there were two ways to penetrate into different social media platforms and keep vigil.

He said the first involved the use of special software to track objectionable posts and content. This method was also known as social engineering, he said.

The digital volunteers would be extremely helpful in penetrating into different closed groups on WhatsApp and other platforms through social engineering, he said.

“A police personnel or volunteer who gets added in the group keeps updating the social media labs. This ploy is helpful in keeping vigil on closed domains,” he said.

A special software can also be used to keep vigil on open social media platforms like facebook, especially to catch keywords fed by police personnel and keep updating social media labs about any objectionable posts or content being circulated.


Inspector general (IG) of police (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar said the state police had already launched the centralised WhatsApp number 9792101616 where people can complain about objectionable posts and contents being circulated on different social media platforms.

Complaints made on this centralised number would be forwarded to the police of different districts and the cyber wings for appropriate action, he said.

A detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for police personnel of all districts, social media labs and cyber wings was prepared and circulated, telling them how to handle complaints related to social media content.

He said the SOP properly explained which sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or special acts would be imposed on which type of content. He said the SOP will be helpful in maintaining uniformity in police action and legal proceedings.


Kumar said the state police had got at least 70 cases registered in the past two months after tracking the objectionable content through police social media labs and cyber wings.

Citing an example, he said a youth was recently arrested from Bahraich for posting anti-national and objectionable content. The arrest was made after registering an FIR against him under different sections of the IPC.

He said the state police were well prepared to counter fake news on social media platforms that is “creating a law-and-order problem” and “disturbing communal harmony” in the state.

“It will counter fake news being spread on social media by anti-social elements. Rumours incite people of different communities and create a law and order problem,” Kumar said.


IG (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar said the state police uploaded a “digital volunteer form” on its website ( in July 2018 for the selection of digital volunteers and formed committees headed by the state’s 75 district police chiefs.

He said the selection committees included additional SPs, circle officers and station houses officers (SHOs) of the police stations.

Kumar said the volunteers comprise at least two people from each village, town, ward and locality to ensure suitable representation from each police station.

“They should be influential, respected and peace-loving members of the society with a clean image,” he added.

He said the volunteers mostly include school principals, teachers, retired government servants, police pensioners, former and sitting legislators, journalists, activists of social organisations, former and sitting village pradhans, members of block development councils, rural health workers, doctors, advocates, fair price shops owners, priests, clerics, businessmen, civil defence personnel, home guards and special police officers (drafted by the local police as a part of community policing).

Explaining how the network will work, the IG said police stations had created their own WhatsApp groups, which will be connected with the groups, including district police officers.

“These will, in turn, be connected to the group monitored by the DGP headquarters. This will ensure accountability in the entire process,” he said.


A senior police official associated with police social media cell said the digital volunteers’ information recently helped police to nab criminal elements in many cases as well as helped trace missing people.

He said a digital volunteer tipped off police about a youth flaunting illegal firearm in Hapur district and helped in arresting him on February 15.

The volunteer informed the police after spotting a photograph of the youth shared in one WhatsApp group.

Another digital volunteer helped police in reuniting mentally challenged youth with his family after identifying him through his photograph shared on a WhatsApp group in Sant Kabir Nagar on December 22, 2018, he said.

First Published: Mar 30, 2019 11:52 IST