Indian Navy bans Facebook, restricts smartphone use

Last Updated 30 December 2019, 15:27 IST

The Indian Navy has banned the use of Facebook for all its personnel and asked its officers and sailors not to carry smartphones to bases, dockyards and onboard warships.

Issued on Friday, the directive from the Naval Headquarters comes weeks after seven sailors from Vishakhapatnam, Mumbai and Karwar and a Mumbai-based hawala operator were nabbed for leaking information to Pakistan after being virtually honey-trapped on social media.

The arrested individuals were young sailors who were entrapped through a fake Facebook account and subsequent chats. They were blackmailed to leak information about their ships and submarines to the ISI.

“The latest orders are in line with ensuring the security of information. Banning of Facebook for officers and sailors of the Indian Navy is on the same lines. The recent incident involving seven sailors has also been taken into consideration while arriving at this decision,” Navy sources said.

The order prohibits the use of messaging and content-sharing apps too. Though the platforms had not been identified, sources said the directive would presumably include Facebook-owned popular platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Separate additional orders are likely to be issued on banning other social media platforms.

While the prohibition on the use of smartphones at dockyards, bases and warships existed before, the new order reminded the personnel to follow past directives.

Sources said the Naval headquarters might make an exception for the personnel handling Indian Navy's hugely popular Facebook page and Twitter handle because the social media in many ways not only acted as a force multiplier but generally provided valuable inputs during natural disasters or any other crisis.

Even though the Army, Air Force and Navy embraced social media in the recent years, its misuse was reported regularly by the intelligence officials, the latest being the capture of seven Navy sailors under Operation Dolphin's Nose.

Last year, an IAF Group Captain was detained by the counter-intelligence officials for passing on classified information to a woman who he befriended on FB and chatted on WhatsApp. Last month Indian Army directed its officials not to use WhatsApp for communication and asked senior officers in sensitive posting to delete their Facebook profile.

“We do understand that this order may come at the cost of some discomfort. However, the decision is in the larger national interest,” sources said.

(Published 30 December 2019, 15:26 IST)

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