Srinagar: The government will examine the feasibility of blocking WhatsApp calling services in insurgency-hit areas such as Jammu and Kashmir as it has come to light that militants are using the facility to be in constant touch with their handlers sitting across the border, officials have said.
The issue was flagged during a meeting held here on Monday under the chairmanship of Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba where the recent arrests in connection with the terror attack at Nagrota Army camp in 2016 were highlighted. The arrested militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed told the Jammu and Kashmir Police that they were taking directions from across the border through WhatsApp calls, they said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently took custody of the three people arrested by the state police for their alleged involvement in helping the terrorists, which included ferrying them from the border and guiding them to the Army camp.
The meeting, which 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 the Jammu and Kashmir Police, was called to discuss the removal of malicious content from various social networking sites posted by ‘keypad jihadis’, who spew venom on the Internet with an intent to create a law and order situation by spreading rumours or giving a communal colour to any event.
The use of the Internet for making calls has increased problems for the security agencies which have been unable to crack them due to end-to-end encryption by the service provider, they said.
The example of some countries, including those from the Gulf, was cited during the meeting, where neither WhatsApp voice nor video calling were allowed, they said.
An official statement released said the meeting discussed effective measures to be taken by the law enforcement agencies to tackle the security challenges posed by terrorists, militants and also by individuals propagating child pornography using the social media platforms.
The meeting 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 Information Technology Act.
It was decided that law enforcement agencies will closely coordinate with MeitY to ensure that action to block content on social media platforms is taken in a timely manner.
This will be followed by a meeting with the representatives of social media platforms for compliance, the statement said.
The meeting also discussed implementation of the provisions of the Information Technology Act pertaining to security agencies in dealing with the menace, which include filing of FIRs, removal of malicious content at the earliest in coordination with the service provider and ensuring speedy legal proceedings so that it could act as a deterrent for others.
The idea behind the crackdown on ‘keypad jihadis’ was to ensure that the security agencies could concentrate more on nabbing or eliminating terrorists with real guns rather than those who wage war against the State machinery using computers.
The forthcoming two-month long Amarnath Yatra is of immediate concern as they apprehend that anyone, while just sitting in the confines of a home, can plant fake news in one of the thousand chat groups and the entire state can plunge into communal violence, the officials said.
They claimed there have been instances when fake pictures of desecration of shrines are circulated by a particular community and all of sudden there is an outrage when no such incident had taken place.