Kolkata: The criminal investigation department (CID) of West Bengal police has decided to recruit 100 software engineers to detect and prevent the spread of rumours on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp. The move is aimed at controlling the threat of inflammatory posts, pictures and videos that can trigger communal tension. The cabinet has approved the recruitment.
Sources said chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who looks after the home department, was herself keen to create a state-of-the-art cyber cell that would keep a tab on social media, customize software and maintain a liaison with the Union home ministry and internet service providers to control information flow during a crisis.
Senior cabinet minister Partha Chatterjee said the state government would recruit more computer engineers and software developers later.
The need for a state-of-the-art cyber crime cell was felt following reports from intelligence agencies and the Union home ministry that communal clashes that erupted in recent times had been deliberately stoked through inflammatory video circulating on social media.
According to senior police officers, three types of messages have been detected so far: building opinion, consolidation and spreading rumours. Realising the urgency of the situation, the CM held several meetings with DGP Surajit Kar Purkayastha, home secretary Moloy De and Kolkata police commissioner Rajib Kumar.
A senior CID officer said that the current cyber cell wasn’t cutting-edge enough and the government needed a more elaborate set-up with strainer software that is capable of filtering messages uploaded on social networking platforms. During crisis, the department will use emergency communication systems to refute misinformation and provide citizens with timely, localised, and correct information through multiple communication channels.
Controlling WhatsApp though proves a challenge. “In case of Facebook, the government can block specific pages or URLs by ordering the internet service providers to do so. We can also filter pages by blocking words or content. But taking the ISP route to restrict access to specific content is not possible in case of WhatsApp. It is a peer-to-peer messaging service and the entire content is encrypted. The entire application will have to be blocked because removal of specific content is not possible,” the officer added.