COVID-19 and social media misuse in Kashmir

Srinagar: Amid COVID-19, Kashmir has become a breeding ground for social media misuse.
In the last few months, it has been seen that misuse of social media which created confusion amid the COVID-19 in the valley.

Several fake orders were circulated on social media that the Supreme Court has advised the government to restore 4G Internet in J&K within 24 hours.

Many Netizens shared it as it reads almost like a genuine order issued by the registry of the apex court. It spread so fast that police had to issue statements a number of times that order was fake.

Similarly, fake news was uploaded with regard to the diagnosis of COVID-19 in Khandipora Beerwah.

These are several such cases reported in the recent past how the social media was being misused in Kashmir and becoming a breeding ground for rumour mongering.

There are lots of reports about misusing of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by the miscreants who are using fake and anonymous names. This is happening at a time when the entire world is fighting to contain COVID-19 and most people rely on social media to get the latest updates about this disease.

Senior officials in the administration, doctors, journalists are mostly resorting to social media to send their message across how to prevent coronavirus.

Even some media organizations have fallen prey to fake orders after shared on social media.

A senior police official told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS) that some of the cyber-attacks in Kashmir are also related to obscene publication, transmission of unauthorized contents, cyber stalking, and obscene messages. There have been several instances in the past when fake videos circulated on social media created a law and order situation. At times it has defamed and broke privacy of individuals in Kashmir.
Misuse of social media has put many officials and other people in tizzy and became problematic for them.

An IAS officer, who is also J&K government spokesperson, is the one who is providing updates about COVID-19 on his Twitter handle. However, some fake accounts were also created on his name to create confusion.

Later screenshots of those accounts were also being shared on social media. This incident brought into limelight the misuse of social media in the valley as many people paid heed to it without verifying the facts. Following which he took to his Twitter handle to clarify the things.

In another Tweet he said, “I am told that some twitter handles impersonating my account are carrying fake news regarding the internet. I have not made any statement. Fake handles have been reported for action. We will also be taking action under cyber laws.”

A senior police official said it was a challenging task to contain misuse of social media in the valley.

“We have identified many social media accounts which are under our radar. We are monitoring what stuff they are sharing and will take action accordingly,” he said.

He said Cyber Police was also monitoring all the profiles and the content being shared by the users.

He said there is a minimum punishment of three years for social media misuse. “There would be 15 years punishment and even life imprisonment for those who misuse social media,” he said.

Earlier, in 2017 the government had issued directives that Whatsapp news groups and news Facebook pages need to be registered.
“It is impressed upon all the admins of Whatsapp news groups of the district to get the registration of their Whats App news groups in the office of the undersigned within ten days,” a circular, issued in 2017 reads.But nothing has been done in this regard so far. (KINS)