Govt evolves strategy to curb social media misuse

Govt evolves strategy to curb social media misuse

Telecom operators to be advised to prevent panic reactions

Taking serious note of the recent misuse of internet and social media, the Central government has formulated a three-pronged strategy including setting up of a cyber surveillance agency which can forewarn about any such malicious intent.

At a recent meeting chaired by National Security Advisor Shivshanker Menon, it was also decided to frame guidelines for telecom operators to prevent panic reaction as seen in recent weeks when internet and social media was used to spread rumours, particularly on clashes in Assam, according to the minutes of the meeting.

The meeting, which was also attended by senior officials from Home Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), intelligence agencies and from National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), took stock of the validity, impact and effectiveness of the government action to block certain content on the internet and social media, it said.

It was felt that in future, an “appropriate regime should be put in place to address similar situation in a smart, timely and consistent manner”, it said.

During the meeting, it was decided to have an “effective monitoring system, comprising duly tasked and technologically empowered cyber monitoring and surveillance agencies which can report build up in time and forewarn government of any malicious use of the internet and social media.”

It was also decided to prepare a legal regime approved by the government, which fills the existing gaps in the Information Technology Act for dealing with such situation, including deterring malicious use of the internet and social media.

Guidelines required

It was felt that public guidelines and standard operating procedures needs to be set in motion by the government and service providers in such crisis.

“This will introduce predictability with regard to what kind of content is liable to be regulated and for how long, the structure and process for such regulation, proactive dissemination of information to counter false propaganda as well as a system of graded response and graded penalty to perpetrators,” the minutes of the meeting said.
The meeting felt the need for continuous research and development to counter the encryption of data by certain vested interests to spread falsehood in the cyber world.

“Our agencies need to be legally and financially empowered. The legal position on whether the law of the land or the law of the intermediaries will take precedence in cyberspace also needs to be clarified while putting a legal regime in place,” it said.
This step is aimed at stopping some of the internet operators from taking refuge under the law of the nations where they are registered.

Home Ministry was also asked to lead a group of concerned departments in preparing guidelines and standard operating procedures for dealing with malicious use of cyberspace.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEIT) will prepare a comprehensive policy paper outlining the structure, mandate and tasking of the proposed mechanism for responding to malicious use of the internet, it said.