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Orwellian Nightmare

Government monitoring social media is adding up to silencing dissent.

George Orwell fictionalised the “surveillance state” in 1984; Edward Snowden convincingly proved it to be a reality in the United States (US) in 2013. With the Narendra Modi government’s plan to set up a National Media Analytics Centre (NMAC), India seems well on the way to following the lead given by the US. According to newspaper reports, the National Security Council Secretariat proposes setting up the NMAC to monitor and analyse blogs, web portals of television channels and newspapers, as well as social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. In some ways this is a duplication of the New Media Wing, set up under the previous government in 2013, which sends daily reports to the government on what is appearing in social media on government policies.

Where the NMAC will go farther, and deeper, is that it will not just monitor social media but will actively counter “negative” news about the government. To do this, it has on hand special software developed to track “negative,” “neutral” and “positive” posts on social media. All ministries have already been instructed to set up quick response teams to defend themselves against so-called “negative” news. The software will also help track the individual blogger or person posting on social media sites, the number of times this person has posted negative or positive material, his/her website preferences and whether any of these websites are those that seek to foment trouble or radicalise the viewer. The feedback from such monitoring would be passed on to security agencies.

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