The Indian government has plans to set up a media cell which will track content online, and ‘counter’ news and comments which are negative or provocative in its opinion, reports the Indian Express. According to the report, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has proposed to create a National Media Analytics Centre (NMAC) to monitor and analyse blogs, web portals of TV channels and newspapers and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube etc.
The idea behind this is to get rid of resentment from news before it snowballs into public protests and threatens law and order (not very effective, in all honesty), which will be passed on to security agencies for a possible intervention.
The government plans to counter “negative narratives” with press releases, briefings or press conferences. Note that MediaNama has been unable to verify this independently. We tried contacting Asst. Prof Ponnurangam Kumaraguru from Delhi’s Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, whose tracking software will reportedly be utilised for the NMAC, but are yet to hear from him. Similarly, we’re yet to hear from Deputy National Security Advisor Dr Arvind Gupta’s office.
Also read: Deccan Chronicle’s To spruce up govt’s image, PMO tells all ministries to counter ‘negative’ image
Tracking software will scan the writer’s previous “patterns”
The software apparently generates tags to highlight ‘belligerent’ comments or conversations on social media, according to the report. It can also go through posts and comments to classify them into negative, neutral and positive categories to highlight relevant text, displaying if negative comments are factually correct or just rumors. The same report adds that it will recall the previous pattern of writers to check their previous negative stands, the writers’ backgrounds and preferences of websites and areas of interest to judge if they’re going to make trouble or get radicalised in the future. (Look at similar efforts from across the globe here, here and here.)
Press freedom at stake
India’s press freedom already ranked at a pathetic 136 out of 180 countries (South Africa beats the US, and we’re beaten by Nepal and Nigeria- for rank purposes only) in 2015 according to Reporters Without Borders. If NMAC comes into effect, be prepared for all kinds of censorship and consumption of only government propaganda.