I&B ministry wing to listen to social media chatter & push govt steps soon

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 21 2013, 07:14am hrs
In the light of new form of protest and criticism engineered through a host of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, the government is working towards creating a full-fledged social media wing within the ministry of information & broadcasting.

The proposed wing will be used as one centralised unit for integrating and publicising the initiatives of all ministries and government departments on the various social media platforms.

It will also be used to check the online debates emanating from the spread of misinformation or unverified information.

Sources said that a Cabinet note to this effect has been drafted, which will soon be moved for inter-ministerial consultations. The government will seek the approval of the Union Cabinet after the consultations. The proposed wing will be established at a one-time investment of R50 lakh to R1 crore.

The social media wing will be headed by a joint secretary level officer with full-time support from over half-dozen directors and other officers.

Support from outside agencies will also be sought for tackling any back-end issues. Among other things, the mandate of the proposed wing will also be to interlink the government's publicity components with the webpage and Google+ and other social networking circles.

The proposed wing will also be expected to organise online press conferences and Google+ hangouts. Under the social media wing, it will become the responsibility of information officers attached with various ministries to address the suggestions, complaints and feedback generated online. They will also be required to maintain their Facebook accounts, highlighting the individual achievements of their respective ministries.

Sources said in order to drive the proposed social media wing, the I&B ministry has already created a social media cell, which will be scaled up post the Cabinet nod. The current social media cell keeps a tab on the various topics being discussed and tweeted on the Internet and produces a daily report for the top government officials and the ministers of the Cabinet.

The issue of tackling the social media was also discussed at length in the three-day Chintan Shivir of Congress in Jaipur over the weekend. In fact, IT minister Kapil Sibal was reported stating the need for a pro-active approach to the social media.

According to a senior Congress party functionary, both the government and the party have taken a serious view on how a series of protests from Anna Hazares movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill to the unprecedented congregation of crowds to show solidarity for Delhi gangrape victim literally spread like wildfire through the use of networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The proposed social media wing will also take feedback on policies and actual implementation of various government schemes, as well as on impact of various regulatory mechanisms.

This would enable the government to take corrective measures, wherever required, on the basis of feedback obtained from the masses, a senior official said.