Prohibitory orders about hateful posts on social media, phone messenger platforms

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In a first-of-its-kind measure, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police, in an order issued two days ago, invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, prohibiting posting of these types of messages on social media or phone messenger platforms.

AFTER instances of hate messages being circulated on internet-based platforms, both Pune Police and Pimpri-Chinchwad Police have issued prohibitory orders against sending any social media or phone messenger communication which contains communally sensitive messages, unscientific, superstitious beliefs and fake news.

Officials said two separate First Information Reports have been registered with Pimpri-Chinchwad Police, in which social media and phone messenger messages, containing hate messages towards a particular religious community, asked people not to buy vegetables from vendors belonging to the community, and to prohibit them from entering residential areas. Police have also observed several hate messages being spread against other religious communities.

Social media and phone messenger platforms are rife with fake news, doctored or fake videos, superstitious claims related to spread of coronavirus and its remedies, and also malicious marketing messages with potential cyber threats, said police.

In a first-of-its-kind measure, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police, in an order issued two days ago, invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, prohibiting posting of these types of messages on social media or phone messenger platforms. Section 144 empowers the designated magistrate to issue orders to prevent any threat to law and order.

The order, issued by Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner Sandeep Bishnoi, read, "There have been instances of messages and posts about COVID-19 pandemic which are misleading in nature and create unnecessary fear, this may possibly be detrimental to the law and order situation. There are messages creating enmity between two communities, sending wrong messages about number of COVID-19-affected people or the death toll. To prevent such messages and their aftermath, prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 are being issued, which will be in force till April 30."

The order further reads, "No person or group of persons will disseminate messages, information in any format which can endanger communal harmony or spread superstitious beliefs. Social media, text messages, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, TikTok or any other such medium should be not be used for spreading such messages. Along with sender, the groups' administrators will also be held responsible for spread of such communication. Those in violation of orders will be liable for prosecution under Indian Penal Code Section 188."

Pimpri Chinchwad's Additional Commissioner of Police Ramnath Pokale said, "We have also come across malicious messages and advertising about sale of liquor at a time when its sale is banned. There are also fraudulent messages circulating about schemes giving financial returns on schemes purportedly announced for COVID relief. These messages may contain links to extract personal information and further cheat a person. We are making an appeal to people not to fall prey to such messages."

On Tuesday, Pune City Police also issued similar orders, prohibiting the circulation of such messages on social media or phone messenger platforms, and warned that violators will be prosecuted under IPC Section 188 along with relevant sections of the National Disaster Management Act.

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