The Calcutta police commissioner on Wednesday warned everyone against sharing or forwarding any social media message without properly verifying it.
“Spreading #FakeNews can land you in trouble! Don’t forward any message/post on social media before properly verifying it,” top cop Anuj Sharma tweeted on Wednesday.
In the past four months, police have arrested at least 50 people and summoned more than 100 for spreading fake news on social media.
“People using social media should keep an eye on posts by others. In case they find anything offensive they should report it to the cyber cell or the detective department at Lalbazar,” Sharma told The Telegraph.
The Telegraph had reported on Wednesday a study by health researchers in Bangladesh has identified India as the “topper” among five countries in spreading rumours and misleading information regarding the coronavirus on social media and online platforms.
The other four countries in the top five are the US, China, Indonesia and Brazil. Rumours, stigma and conspiracy theories have circulated as infodemic waves between January and early April in these countries.
The number of cases of “fake news” has gone up considerably after the outbreak of the pandemic, many officers said.
“Half the cases (of fake news) are related to Covid-19. There have been several cases where information and incidents have been distorted to deliberately spread panic and unrest in society. At times the posts are unintentional, too,” an officer said.
The police have come across cases where information about the body of a Covid-19 patient being dumped on the road by men wearing PPEs has been circulated on social media only to be found later that neither the patient had died of Covid-19 nor was the body dumped on the road, the officer said.
Similar instances have been reported on social media where someone has posted the photograph and name of a person and identified him as a Covid-19 patient without any proof. This results in harassment of that person. A young woman was arrested in connection with this offence.
A few weeks ago, a school teacher was arrested in New Alipore for posting false information that several people had tested positive for Covid-19 in some of the blocks in New Alipore, the police said. It had triggered panic among people in the neighbourhood.
“Our social media cell has been keeping an eye on various social media platforms for necessary action. In most of the cases, it has been found that the person has circulated the information without realising it is false. In such cases we allow them to go after a warning,” an officer said.
But in cases where it is found that a particular post has been circulated deliberately to spread communal tension, people involved are arrested, the officer added.