Guest Column: How do we bring order to anarchy of social media?

The spate of incidents in Karnataka, AP and Telengana where strangers were attacked- murderously in a few cases-by mobs mistaking them to be child snatchers, have thrown a huge challenge to the police. The phenomenon where rumors on various counts spiral out of control resulting in violence and deaths is by no means new. The difference is that social media is playing a huge role in spreading rumors   much faster and more effectively than before.

These rumors and their after effects took the overstretched   Karnataka police totally by surprise, recovering as they were from the most arduous election duties and their after math when a series of political events demanded their unstinted focus. The police tried   damage control by scotching rumors. But in this era of social media when rumors can travel at a frenetic pace there is only so much that police could do.

It is fair to describe the digital world as anarchic. Too much of regulation by the State goes against the spirit of freedom of speech and expression while any laxity is fraught with the danger of rumor mills and fake news causing avoidable loss and injury to innocent lives. While cyber experts should come up with measures to regulate social media, one of the solutions is for all government departments to become active on FB, twitter and whatsapp and feed factual information by targeting specific communities. In addition each department should appoint a nodal officer who will be responsible for  confirming  any development , disseminate correct information and  neutralize  misinformation  so that media portrays reality.

S.T. Ramesh former Director General and Inspector General of Police , Karnataka)

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