Digital detox
THE WEEK|March 07, 2021
Enforcement agencies need to take strong measures to boost the confidence of netizens in cybercrime investigations
NAMRATA BIJI AHUJA

MARKETERS HAVE LONG been using software tools for profiling customers. Now governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide are heavily investing in technologies that use application programming interface, crawlers and charts to analyse social media users’ posts, tags, pictures and tweets for building profiles and carry out sentimental analyses to identify the causes they are against or sympathetic to.

In India, intelligence agencies and state police forces have set up social media monitoring labs to carry out overt, discreet and covert probes. These tools help cyber sleuths collect, analyse and segregate data. The cyber cell of the Delhi Police, for instance, has more than 250 people monitoring social media platforms through what it calls “social listening”—gleaning raw volumes of live data running into hundreds of terabytes. Occasionally, experts and volunteers are also being brought in to assist in monitoring the virtual world which has become the new battleground to shape public opinion, fuel sentiments, instigate agitations and wage proxy wars.

During the Delhi riots last year and the recent farmers’ protests, the cyber patrollers had a challenging job at hand, as social media was abuzz with rumours and propaganda.

The Delhi Police processed a large amount of data to identify the rioters in the first case. In the second, they arrested Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old Bengaluru based activist, for allegedly sharing a ‘toolkit’ with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who tweeted it. A Delhi court, however, granted her bail saying there was “scanty” and “sketchy” evidence to back charges of sedition and asserted that citizens could not be jailed simply because they disagreed with government policies. The police now have the tough job of proving that the toolkit was prepared in collusion with Khalistan supporters and was part of a global conspiracy to defame India.

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