The series of events culminating in the tragic murder of two youths in the neighboring state have undeniably demonstrated that “forwards” on social media, particularly the most widely and easily accessible “WhatsApp” messaging service, has become the next “big menace to tackle.”
Incidentally, the Nagaland Police was among the first in Northeast to have a Cyber Crime unit, an idea mooted way back in 2013, according to the media reports. While the Nagaland Police record shows that it has the Cyber Crime Police Station, designated as “State P.S,” clear information on its activities is not visible on its website and so far has been restricted mainly to awareness on online fraud and other related crimes.
Four cases of First Information Reports were registered in the Cyber Crime PS Case from January–December 2017, according to data available on Nagaland Police Website. A major breakthrough about such “fake news” phenomenon was the arrest of a political party functionary last December for allegedly sharing a “fake letter” written by the then Nagaland chief minister, TR Zeliang to Governor “conveying the resignation of the State Cabinet.”
However, given increased intensity and regularity by which such “fake news” are being spread in the recent past, the existing mechanism need to be fully enhanced. It must not be restricted to simply clarifying on such matters, but enhancing the capability and manpower to investigate the matter fully and put the originator of such “news” to task.
Most recently, Tripura and Mizoram have taken steps to strengthen their existing setup to deal with the growing incidents of “cyber crime, including misuse of social media.” Manipur’s first cyber crime police station was inaugurated last year. Ditto for Meghalaya and Assam. The Meghalaya police went step further and recently created two hotline numbers where people can report on sexual crimes of various natures and child pornography on the internet.
It does not mean that the Nagaland Police has been lacking behind on such initiatives. On its own, respective police station has been at the forefront. The Dimapur Police is a case in point. Almost all the district police have their presence on social media with respective Facebook pages and the appreciation from the public is palpable. At the top, the Director General of Police has been at the vanguard in creating public awareness as well as productively using the social media to interact and answer citizen’s concerns.
However, noble as it is, a DGP or for that matter, any social media unit of a District Unit, are not expected to be there to answer queries every time on a real time basis. It calls for a fully established unit dealing with such issues. At the start of his tenure, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi at a DGP conference batted for ‘SMART’ policing – S for strict but sensitive; M for modern and mobile; A for alert and accountable; R for reliable and responsive; and T for techno-savvy and trained. His love for acronym might be handy in this case.
Any initiative from the police or other entities will however become a cropper if the citizen has tendency of not only sharing unverified news liberally, but also taking the “law” into their own hands blurring the line between alertness and vigilantism.
The State needs not just a tech savvy police but also a prudent citizen.