India blames Pakistani hands behind Internet scare that led to NE exodus [Irresponsible social web]

A day after India blamed Pakistani hands behind doctored images and text messages that went viral over cell phones and  social networks to create panic amongst people from India’s north eastern region, Pakistan has promised that it will investigate into the allegations if India comes up with proof.

Last week, doctored images portraying gun toting monks from the north east, killing Muslims, began doing the rounds on the Internet through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Soon, text messages threatening a Muslim retaliation against people from the north eastern states began doing the rounds.

This triggered panic and an exodus of people from north east residing in various states. Thousands of northeast Indians fled from cities including Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai to their homeland.

The Indian government soon came out with a 43 page report and blamed Pakistani groups behind the false propaganda. On Sunday, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had asked his Pakistani peer Rehman Malik to take action against perpetrators.

Going by a report prepared by National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and Computer Emergency Response Team India (Cert-In), several of the disturbing images that sought to create tension between Muslims and Indians from the north eastern region were doctored and had their origins in Pakistan.

The Indian government has reportedly asked Facebook and Google to block nearly 80 Internet pages.  A daily limit of 5 text messages per user has also been put in place by the government to stop mass circulation of text messages that promote hate.

The *(Ir)responsible Social Media*

While social media has been widely credited for catalysing positive change in the world through events like the Arab spring, it has also been instrumental in spreading in rumours. There is already a strict ban on usage of social media in countries like China and reckless social media behaviour will only lead to governments asking for more power over the Internet, leading to censorship and practices that hamper free speech.

While Pakistan has been alleged to mastermind the Internet scare, the sharing part was mostly done by Indian citizens and it does raises an important question on responsibility that one needs to maintain while sharing such sensitive details on the web (after all,  this isn’t the first time we are reporting about irresponsible social media, read: Rohan Rathore Is Alive But It’s Time He Dies)

Lesson Learnt?: For a free and fair internet, share responsibly. Or else, get ready to be monitored (“Like China, we will block all such websites”– Indian Government to Google and Facebook).

What are your thoughts?