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After warning WhatsApp, Modi govt asks states to be alert & prevent lynchings

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Fake news propagated through social media has taken a bloody turn in India, with one such rumour leading to at least 29 deaths.

New Delhi: The home ministry (MHA) has asked states and union territories (UTs) to take strict measures to prevent lynchings triggered by social media rumours.

The directive follows at least 29 deaths across the country in lynchings triggered by a single WhatsApp rumour – seeking to warn readers about ‘child-lifters’ – over the past year.

States and UTs have also been asked to keep a watch on this particular rumour.

“The ministry of home affairs has urged them to keep a watch for early detection of such rumours…so effective measures can be initiated to counter them,” an MHAofficial said.

The advisory has also asked the states and UTs to task district administrations with identifying areas vulnerable to such incidents and conducting community outreach programmes to create awareness and build confidence.

“Most of these areas where lynching incidents were reported are places where people do have access to social media like WhatsApp but are not aware how to distinguish between fake and real news,” an MHA official said.

“They believe what they are fed online, which is proving to be extremely dangerous. It is practically not possible to control the internet, considering its reach, but the state governments are to ensure that these (awareness) campaigns are regularly held to make people aware of the world of internet and how it functions,” the official added.

“They need to be told that everything on the internet is not the truth. Till now the need for it was not realised, but now it has become extremely important,” the official said.

The Centre has instructed states and UTs to properly investigate complaints of child abduction and kidnapping to instil
confidence among those affected.

“It is important that these complaints are heard, cases registered and properly investigated. The state police now need to be extra cautious about these cases,” the official said.

“This is the reason why the Centre has stressed upon…proper investigation,” the official said.

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