Assam Police fights coronavirus 'infodemic': 52 cases registered, 25 people arrested for spreading fake news, 110 sent for counselling
Assam Police has launched a fight against fake news on coronavirus and the lockdown that has hit people's lives no less than the COVID-19 pandemic itself
Besides enforcing the ongoing lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Assam Police has also been fighting against fake information on the dead virus through strict social media monitoring, and has arrested 25 people for the same.
The misinformation in public domain about COVID-19 disease and the lockdown has hit everyone's lives no less than the pandemic itself.
Alongside the doctors and health workers fighting the disease, the police and government authorities are fightng a tough battle against 'fake news' about the novel coronavirus and lockdown.
In Assam, the police force is working on a war footing to control and take action against misinformation peddlers. The cyber cell and police force are trying hard to ensure no rumour monger is left unpunished.
Along with many parts of the country, Assam too is witnessing a storm of fake news on social media and people are seen falling for them without verifying the facts.
Miscreants are taking advantage of this sensitive period to create panic among the people.
Last week, a fake news in the name of a non-existent ministry was spread through the social media across Assam. The Assam Police had to issue an alert about the fake news on social media.
On Facebook, the police wrote:
"There is a Fake WhatsApp - Janasanyog Government Notification being circulated in the name of a nonexistent Minister of Communication & Digital Economy stating that from 4.4.20 all Phone Calls will be recorded, all Social Media monitored and Android phones connected to the Ministry (sic)."
Requesting the people not to believe in such fake news and not to forward it, the Assam Police added: “Do not believe this message. It is fake. Do not forward or circulate it either.”
According to the fake news, the non-existent ministry through had ordered authorities to record phone calls, monitor WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as connect all Android mobile phones to the a system managed by the ministry. The fake news alert asked people to share the message among friends and family members.
The Assam Police has reportedly registered a case in the matter and asked people to not share the message.
Meanwhile, the Assam govt has expressed serious concern over rumours about the novel coronavirus and lockdown. In a presser on Tuesday, Assam Chief Minister's Press Advisor Hrishikesh Goswami had requested all not to forward or share any message circulating on social media.
He informed that the Department of Information and Public Relations of Assam has filed an FIR against Dainik Jugasanka, a Bengali daily published from Silchar, for carrying a false news report about the state’s first COVID-19 patient.
While the patient is still admitted at Silchar Medical College Hospital, the paper reported that he has been cured of the illness. The newspaper claimed without verifying the information that a second test carried on the patient was found negative.
A case has been lodged against the reporter who filed the story and the publisher of the newspaper under Section 188 of IPC and provisions of Assam COVID-19 Regulation, 2020.
Assam DIPR has formed a five-member committee for monitoring and checking fake news in all forms of media. The committee includes officials from the information, health, police and disaster management departments.
This committee is looking after fake news and also giving directions to district information officers to look after social media handles and activate WhatsApp numbers so that the public can get access to correct information.
In Assam, as of Tuesday, a total of 28 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and several thousands of people are put on home qurantine. Twenty-seven of these cases are linked to a mosque in Nijamuddin in Delhi.
On Sunday night, AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam was arrested on the charge of spreading communal propaganda regarding the coronavirus and since then Assam Police has been extra cautious in dealing with any unwanted tense situation.
The MLA was arrested after an audio went viral where he is allegedly heard saying that "people are injected with coronavirus and murdered".
The Assam police has so also established a monitoring system to check social media users spreading rumours about the corona virus.
Till Wednesday 9 am, total 52 cases has been registered for spreading rumours/uploading objectionable comment on social media and a total of 25 people have been arrested while eight were detained and then released after issuing notice in this manner.
According to recent available data, 110 people are undergoing counselling and more than 120 social media posts have been deleted and many accounts have been deactivated.
Assam Police's fight against fake news has received support from different individuals and organisations as well. To alert the police about the misinformation flood in social media, Dr Ankuran Dutta, Associate professor and head of the Department of Communication and Journalism in Gauhati University has initiated a mission called 'check the fake’.
Speaking to News18, Dutta said, "Fake news in today’s world has taken shape of an 'infodemic', ie, a pandemic of incorrect information. It has three forms — misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. Misinformation refers to the false and inaccurate information which is deliberately created to deceive others. Disinformation is also same type of fake information deliberately created to harm a person, social group or country. The third one malinformation is based on reality but used to inflict harm on a person or an organisation. All these inaccurate information types has little difference and fake news is their umbrella term."
During the lockdown period, people are solely dependent on TV and social media for all kind of information about the pandemic and to stay alert on real time, but misinformation and rumours paralyse rational thinking and is seen as threat to the law and order situation of society.
While people are reminded again and again to maintain social distancing due to the novel coronavirus, it would be equally worth following the ‘social media distancing’ norms laid out by police to destroy fake news or ‘infodemic’.
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