GOVERNMENT HAS blocked 250 websites, which it claims, carried morphed pictures and videos of atrocities on Muslims in northeastern state of Assam, which was at the centre of massive ethnic and communal riots between tribal Bodos and Muslim settlers, leading to the death of at least 78 people besides rendering 400,000 people homeless.
Perhaps, a mid way is to intervene prior to registration on social media websites. All those who register should be made aware of the content that's not permissible, and make them aware of relevant laws and repercussions of breaking them if their complicity is proved. Similarly, these sites can be asked by the Indian government to continuously remind registered users as well as general public, through mass media advertizing, about what kind of content is not permissible. The government, from its side, can strengthen cyber laws to empower sites such as Facebook and Twitter to curb posting of provocative content due to presence of these stringent laws.
Terming the government action unfortunate, Mr Prakash who is a programme manager with the Bangalore-based research and advocacy group, The Centre for Internet and Society believes that government botched up at so many levels. “I don't think the government should be going after Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. It should be going to them, to work with them on removing content,” Mr Prakash suggests. "The larger social networks have dedicated complaints mechanisms, which the government could have asked them to run 24x7 for a few days, and to expedite that process, and both complained itself and asked the public to use the complaints process,” he adds.
Though Pakistan has rubbished the claims that it has any role in fomenting trouble, but it has also asked the Indian government to provide it with evidence so that it could nab the accused. Whether or not there is any evidence is a secondary question, the primary blame will always rest with both the state and central governments who failed to stop the exodus of fear-stricken people from the northeast.
Experts like Mr Prakash are wondering why the government didn't pay back in the same coin by using the social media to dispel the rumours. “It is a pity that they notified a new policy to encourage governmental use of social media only today; they sorely needed it this last week,” Mr Prakash rues.
The government has blocked content related to thirty Twitter accounts but another surprising thing is that only accounts using the web interface have been blocked, and such accounts can still be accessed on BlackBerrys or other smartphones.
The only visible thing government did on ground when the exodus started taking place in Bangalore was the setting up of helplines but did they help in preventing the exodus - there are enough reasons to believe against it. "There were some complaints that the people attending some of these helplines could only speak in Kannada, and not the English or Hindi that people calling for help were expecting. Even such positive steps were executed badly." Mr Prakash informs.
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