A clampdown is under way in Jammu & Kashmir to contain circulation of fake news on social media platforms, especially through instant messaging service WhatsApp, as the police on Sunday identified several social media groups that were “responsible for” rioting in Srinagar last week.A police spokesman said several Facebook pages, WhatsApp groups and individuals using social media and circulating rumours had been identified in the July 12 case of arson during clashes in Srinagar’s Soura area. “A rumour was circulated on social media about security forces setting ablaze handcarts in Soura’s Anchar area. An investigation has been able to trace the rumour-mongers,” said the police. The authorities were adopting a multi-pronged strategy to end fake news and rumours on social media platforms, responsible in many cases for deterioration of the law and order situation in the Valley. Superintendent of Police (Kishtwar) Abrar A. Chowdhary has directed the administrator of a WhatsApp group ‘Youth for peace’ to register with the Deputy Commissioner. The police have warned of action if WhatsApp group adminstrators fail to register. The administration has invoked the Information Technology Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in its order. Around 25 WhatsApp groups have registered with the Kishtwar administration already.“People glorifying militants on WhatsApp groups could face prison up to two years under the UAPA,” said the police.Sources in the police said the authorities will strictly implement the 2016 order that makes registration of administrators of WhatsApp groups with the deputy commissioner mandatory. Intrusion of privacy However, users and administrators of the social media claimed it was intrusion into their privacy. “We have family groups, sports groups and the groups where we share news to a closed group. What kind of a group is treated as a news platform remains undefined,” said a WhatsApp group admin.Without defining the social media news platforms, the Jammu and Kashmir government, in its order, has also warned action against the administrators of social media groups “for all the comments and remarks posted and for its repercussions.” The State has also regulated the usage of social media by its employees. “No government employee shall engage in any criminal, dishonest, immoral or notoriously disgraceful conduct on social media which may be prejudicial to the government,” reads an order of the General Administration Department.
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