Why Is the BJP Govt Anxious About WhatsApp and Social Media?
The government seems to be extremely concerned about propaganda on WhatsApp.
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If I ask you what is needed to create a WhatsApp group, your answer will be: Just a smartphone and an internet connection. But unfortunately, that's not all. You also need the permission of the DM of the district.
Katha Jor Garam is that the government is extremely concerned about propaganda on WhatsApp. Recently, the DM and SP of Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district have issued an order saying that the admin of every WhatsApp group for journalists will have to be registered with the district’s information department. According to the order:
- All admins will have to submit their address proof, Aadhaar numbers, photos and all other details at the District Information Department.
- Phone numbers of all members of every group will have to be submitted as part of the registration process.
- No new members can be added to a group without prior permission from the DM.
- If any member is added without prior permission, strict action will be initiated under the IT Act.
Some believe this move will ensure the noose is tightened around fake journalists, but many believe that this is an attack on one's freedom of speech.
The DM of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar had made a similar announcement. His announcement wasn’t just limited to WhatsApp groups of journalists but to all WhatsApp groups. Even family groups.
Concerns Raised on National Level
On 21 August 2018, in a meeting with WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels, Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said WhatsApp must be able to track the origin of a forwarded message.
However, WhatsApp claimed that it cannot track the origin of a forwarded message because of 'end-to-end encryption'.
The Cause of Concern
The big question is, what is it that has suddenly prompted the government to tighten its control over WhatsApp.
According to a survey by the Lokniti-CSDS:
From 22 percent in 2017, WhatsApp’s reach in urban India has increased to 38 percent in July 2018. The reach is growing faster in rural India. In 2017, only 10 percent of the people used WhatsApp in rural India. In July 2018, this figure has doubled.
Which means that ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, WhatsApp might be more effective than rallies and roadshows.
Social Media: A Source of Power
As the saying goes, 10 Downing Street, White House or 7 RCR are not names of buildings but names of power centres. Similarly, social media now is not just a medium but a power centre that is threatening one and all.
Now you may argue that social media is the BJP's forte. Who can forget the contribution of social media in the party’s 2014 victory?
From July 2017 to April 2018, PM Modi posted 3,318 tweets. Every post was, on an average, retweeted 2,848 times with an engagement rate of 0.04%. Congress President Rahul Gandhi posted 861 tweets with an average retweet of 4,107 and an engagement rate of 0.22%. That is more than PM Modi’s.
Besides Twitter, on WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and other platforms, the Opposition is giving a tough fight to the BJP.
Although big words such as fake news, rumour-mongering and mob lynching are being used, another reason to tighten control over social media could be to use it as per one’s own interests.
But now that the genie is out of the bottle, it will only serve the one who tames it.
(This article was originally published on Quint Hindi.)
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Topics: India Rahul Gandhi Ravi Shankar Prasad
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