A fake report being circulated on Whatsapp, and through e-mails, claims that the Narendra Modi government may ban the use of popular messaging platform WhatsApp in the country “as it is terrorist’s favourite app for messaging”. However, this is not true. The report, dated June 14, 2018 says: “At a meeting in New Delhi yesterday, the ministry expressed its concern over anti-national elements in the country using social media apps to carry out their activities.”
While it is true that top officials recently held a meeting in the wake of reports of growing use of WhatsApp by terrorists, they didn’t mull a nationwide ban on the use of WhatsApp. Instead, news agency PTI reported on June 11 that the Modi government is planning to examine the feasibility of blocking WhatsApp calling services in “insurgency-hit areas”.
The meeting, chaired by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, was called to discuss the removal of malicious content from various social networking sites posted by “keypad jihadis”, who try to create a law and order situation by spreading rumours or giving a communal colour to any event via internet, PTI reported on June 11. The meeting was attended by top officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and those from security agencies as well as Jammu and Kashmir Police.
At the meeting, recent arrests in connection with Nagrota Army camp terror attack in 2016 was also discussed.
In a release dated June 7, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) said that the arrested terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammed were taking directions from across the border through WhatsApp. “Interrogation of three terrorists arrested in the Nagrota attack case namely Md Ashiq Baba, Tariq Ahmed Dar, Muneer-ul-Hassan Qadri revealed that they were in regular touch with JeM commanders based in Pakistan. They were in continuous Whatsapp contact through voice and text with Maulana Mufti Ashghar based at Muzaffarabad whose “bhanja” Waqas (JeM commander in South Kashmir) died in an encounter near Pulwama recently,” the NIA said.
PTI reported that officials, who attended the meeting, said that the use of internet for making call by terrorists has increased security agencies’ problems as they are unable to crack it due to end-to-end encryption by the service provider. They shared the example of a few countries, including those from the Gulf, where neither WhatsApp voice or video calling is allowed.
As per the official statement, officers at the meeting discussed effective measures needed to tackle the challenges posed by terrorists, militants and also individuals propagating child pornography using the social media platforms. They also discussed steps to enhance coordination among the law enforcement agencies, MeitY and DoT to block and remove malicious content under sections 69 (Power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource) and 79 (limited access to a communication system over which information made available by third parties is transmitted or temporarily stored or hosted) of the IT Act, PTI reported.
The officials decided at the meeting that security agencies will closely coordinate with MeitY to ensure that the action to block the content on social media platforms is taken in a timely manner. The officials also had a meeting with representatives of social media platforms for compliance.
The government is mulling a crackdown on ‘keypad jihadis’ to ensure that the security forces could concentrate more on arresting or eliminating terrorists with real guns.