People wait to board the special train to Bangalore at Guwahati railway station on Thursday. Many had fled the southern states after rumours of attacks on people of northeastern origin had broken out. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Sept. 20: Assam police have decided to arm themselves technically to counter cyber mischief that has the potential to create law and order problems.
The move follows the misuse of Internet to spread communal hatred in the wake of the violence in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).
An official source said the police would procure the “Internet monitoring system”, which is capable of directly accessing web contents posted by suspects and tapping into Net communications through mobile phones. This will enable them to monitor the web and social media networks for malicious content with implications on law and order.
“The basic idea is to keep a watch on web content which is in the public domain and which may have the potential to create law and order problems like what was witnessed in the wake of the recent BTAD violence and identify those responsible for uploading such materials,” he said.
The Internet monitoring system will help the police block inflammatory and objectionable online materials before it goes viral on the net. “The misuse of Internet to create communal unrest after the BTAD violence has brought about a greater realisation in the county about the need for more cyber surveillance and the police in a sensitive state like Assam can’t afford to lag behind,” the source added.
The misuse of websites in spreading rumours by uploading inflammatory messages and doctored videos of Assam violence had created panic among people of the Northeast living in other parts of the country and led to their mass exodus from cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had also expressed concern over “rumours spreading like wildfire” through Internet.
“With the Internet fast becoming a breeding ground for criminal activity and often misused to promote crime, violence and terror, it has become important to monitor the net,” the source said. The police are looking for a consultant to help them to select a monitoring system best suited to their requirements.
The proposed “lawful Internet monitoring system” will be a “software-based programme” that will be linked to all Internet service providers, he said.
After the system is acquired, the police will have to put in place a legal regime to ensure that individuals’ privacy and citizens’ freedom of speech and expression are not violated. “Basically, a mechanism will have to be set up to ensure that all requests for access to information would be routed to a single police officer to eliminate any chance of misuse of the system,” he said.
Though a formal decision has not been taken yet, the proposed system is likely to be put under the control of the special operations unit or the special branch (intelligence unit) of the state police.