By Prarthana Mitra
Police forces across the country are devising social media campaigns to combat the rising incidence of violence in the last few months, following the circulation of fake messages over social media, including WhatsApp. As a result of rumours spread by users of the Facebook-owned messaging app, law enforcement authorities across several states have planned to use the same platform, to crack down harder on the perpetrators.
Here’s what happened
There has been an alarming rise in mob violence and incidents of lynching based on such messages in the recent weeks. Last month, Qrius reported on a Hyderabad constable who rescued a couple of crossdressers from being lynched by a furious mob. The vigilante justice-serving locals had allegedly been instigated by certain WhatsApp broadcasts warning people about suspected kidnappers being on the prowl in the city.
Last month, a mob lynched a man in a Bengaluru locality suspecting him to be a child abductor, preceded by widely circulated videos on WhatsApp. Karnataka police have arrested 25 people including four women and a minor in connection with the case so far.
Fake news and videos about child abductors distributed on WhatsApp have also caused alarm among villagers across Assam, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, culminating in reported lynchings. In Assam, this led to over a dozen arrests, after a mob lynched two people last week, suspecting them to be child kidnappers.
As an antidote to propagandist messages, fake news and inflammatory broadcasts over social media and messaging apps, the state police across Karnataka, Assam, Telangana and Kerala are now engaged in designing social media campaigns, following claims that these platforms have been used to incite violence against fringe and minority communities.
Roadmap for the campaign
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.