Maharashtra witnessing spike in hate speech, communal content on social media
In Maharashtra, cases of hate speech, and the peddling of fake news and rumours around Covid-19 on social media platforms are witnessing a surge since the lockdown. It is important to note that 60 per cent of such content in Maharashtra is being peddled through WhatsApp. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are also being exploited to spread the communal narrative around the global pandemic.
Attempts to give the COVID-19 outbreak a communal colour is panning out as a national trend. States such as Haryana, Delhi, and Uttrakhand have already witnessed cases of violence and communal discrimination linked with coronavirus rumours and fake news. On Tuesday, fake news related to Muslim men spitting in localities led to a communal conflagration in villages of Jharkhand’s Gulma district and claimed one life.
In Maharashtra, cases of hate speech, and the peddling of fake news and rumours around COVID-19 on social media platforms are witnessing a surge. According to the state’s cyber police, this trend has seen a surge, specifically in the past few days.
Until Wednesday, 132 cases have been registered with the cyber police in connection with fake news, rumours, and hate speeches on social media since the lockdown.
It is important to note that 60 per cent of such content in Maharashtra is being peddled through WhatsApp. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are also being exploited to insert a communal narrative into the global pandemic.
According to Maharashtra’s Cyber Police, among the registered cases, 49 are related to hate speeches on social media and other online channels. In the last 24 hours alone, the cyber police have registered 20 such offences, out of which 14 were cases of giving communal colour to the coronavirus outbreak.
"While analysing data of the cases, it came to light that posts of hate speeches increased in the last five days," said Balsing Rajput, Superintendent of Police - Maharashtra Cyber.
He further added, "Out of the total offences, 79 are related to Whatsapp forwards in which unverified and unauthentic information related to COVID-19 was forwarded, and in some cases, communal colour was given to the disease, which could have created law and order issue."
Besides, 24 cases are related to objectionable Facebook posts, and 23 offences registered for spreading misleading videos on platforms such as YouTube.
The police are zeroing in on the offenders, and so far 35 people have been arrested in connection with these cases.
In a few Delhi neighbourhoods, people have called for a ban on Muslim vegetable and fruit vendors in their locality. This communal discrimination is stemming from fake news and rumours being spread through social media platforms.
In North West Delhi’s Shastri Nagar B Block, residents have started seeking ID proofs of vendors and are refusing to buy vegetables and fruits from Muslim hawkers. The Delhi Police have already registered an FIR and initiated an investigation against a meeting held in the Shastri Nagar neighbourhood where a decision was made to boycott Muslim vendors.