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Home / Mumbai News / Mumbai Police remove over 600 misleading social media posts on Covid-19, share tips to spot fake news

Mumbai Police remove over 600 misleading social media posts on Covid-19, share tips to spot fake news

A team of 30 highly trained, technologically sound, multilingual officers keep an eagle’s eye on the suspicious activities on various social media platforms.

mumbai Updated: Apr 30, 2020 13:51 IST
Vijay Kumar Yadav
Vijay Kumar Yadav
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A man walks past a police van with Stay Home message, during the Covid-19 lockdown in Mumbai on Wednesday.
A man walks past a police van with Stay Home message, during the Covid-19 lockdown in Mumbai on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

The Mumbai Police have pulled down more than 600 objectionable posts related to the coronavirus pandemic from social media platforms, officials said on Thursday. The posts include video and audio clips, communal posts, photos and fake news.

Five FIRs have also been registered in this regard and 155 accused arrested so far, said Harish Baijal, deputy inspector general of Mumbai Police’s cyber wing.

A senior police officer told Hindustan Times that the Social Media Lab (SML) of Special Branch-1, the intelligence wing of Mumbai Police, has pulled down objectionable posts during the lockdown period. “These posts were highly misleading, baseless and had potential to trigger panic among people and also communal tension in the city,” the officer said.

The officer further added that the messages circulating initially on the social media platforms had misinformation regarding Covid-19, but later, messages on the Tablighi Jamaat incident of Delhi spread like wildfire.

“We keep close eye on trends and patterns and analyse them to identify the platforms or groups which are regularly spreading such inflammatory videos or posts. Then appropriate legal action is taken against such elements,” another officer said.

A team of 30 highly trained, technologically sound, multilingual officers keep an eagle’s eye on the suspicious activities on various social media platforms. These officers work in three shifts so that the monitoring continues for 24 hours, 7 days a week.

They look for objectionable content on popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram etc with the help of advanced filter tools. Once objectionable content is discovered, it is immediately blocked or removed with the help of the service providers. Members of this team are regularly given training by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), anti-terror agencies and other government agencies about the new tools, filters and softwares that can be used to trace troublemakers operating online.

How it’s done:

Whenever a ‘problematic’ content is identified on internet by the Social Media Lab (SML) officials, it is sent to an Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) or Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of Special Branch. After senior officials find it fit for further action, they approve the same for sending it to the cyber wing, which is the nodal authority of Mumbai Police for such action. While sending out instructions, the senior officials also keep in mind that freedom of speech or artistic or creative liberty is not curbed.

The cyber police then writes email to concerned service provider under Section 91 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and request them to remove the content.

“The service providers do not accept the police’s request everytime as they adhere to their local laws and are not bound by our laws. But, in cases related to terrorism or any other emergency they usually accept our request and promptly remove the content from their platform. They also follow a verification process before taking down the content,” a DCP rank officer said, who once headed the cyber police decision, told Hindustan Times.

The police officers also shared tips on how to spot fake news:

• Fake news often goes viral: Even if a message, post or video is shared multiple times and you receive it from multiple sources, consider the fact that a matter being shared multiple times does not make it true.

• Look for mistakes and errors in messages: Most fake messages are full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

• Check the ‘unbelievable’ information: On receiving information that seems a little far-fetched, check on internet, official websites to determine whether it is true or not.

• Photos, videos can be edited: Always understand that it is not difficult to edit photos and videos. Even if a photo is real, it is not a tough task to spin a story around it. Always look online to see where the photo came from.

• Check links as well: Sometimes links look like they are too well-known websites but there are often spelling mistakes and unusual characters present in them.

• Don’t share if your are unsure: If you are unaware of the source or are unsure about the information, then avoid sharing such matters.

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