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Police struggling to check misuse of social media in Kashmir

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Srinagar,: Police is finding it difficult to keep a check on unregistered social media groups in Kashmir Valley, leaving room for rumour mongers to play mischief as they have in the past.
In 2016, the government made registration of social-media news groups mandatory in Kashmir.
The people in charge we asked to obtain permission from the deputy commissioners for posting news on social media.
The direction had come in the backdrop of rumors spread on Facebook and WhatsApp about polio vaccine causing death to infants.
Subsequently, the hordes of panic-stricken parents ran berserk, rushing their children to the nearby hospitals for medical examination.
Two years down the line, the move appears to have resulted in no positive change.
Consequently, internet clampdown has become the authorities’ preferred option to take in situations that encourage rumour mongering.
In 2017, Kashmir witnessed internet blockade at least 60 times—highest in a calendar year thus far.
In 2016, internet was blocked 10 times.
A police official told The Kashmir Monitor the government has blocked several Facebook pages and WattsApp groups where people had posted false information.
“Now, there are thousands of such pages and groups and we find it difficult to keep a proper surveillance on them. There shall be a policy for regulation of social media news pages,” he said.
He said those found involved in cyber-crime of posting false information are to be booked under the IT Act with minimum and maximum punishment of six-months and two-years, respectively.
The measures have, however, proven little helpful in stopping the rumour mill on the web, as is evident from a fresh cases witnessed so far this year.
In March, for instance, police arrested the administrator of a WhatsApp group in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district for sharing a picture of a shopkeeper on the social media and branding him a militant.
More recently, the residents of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district believed a rumour that a student was killed during protests.
Police later clarified that it was “false news intended to cause fear and alarm in general public”.
Police lodged an FIR against a resident of Gulab Bagh here after received complaints of him circulating faked news on socialmedia. He was the admin of a Facebook page.
Director General of Police, SP Vaid, expressed his helplessness in stopping rumours spread through social-media.
“Why should everything be left to police? We already have law and order problems to deal with. Let the other departments of the government also take note of it and work towards addressing the menace of rumor mongering,” Vaid told The Kashmir Monitor.

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