WEDNESDAY 22 AUG 2012 9:21 AM


Four years ago, social media was hailed as a breakthrough for crisis communications during the attacks in Mumbai, India. On 21 August, the Indian government pressured social networking sites to delete inflammatory posts from their websites for inciting mass panic.

Last week, tens of thousands of Indians fled cities across the north of the country responding to fear of violence. Fear that was based on Twitter and Facebook posts targeting certain ethnic groups.

Telecommunications Secretary R Chandrashekhar has threatened legal action if the posts and pages in question are not removed. Additionally, 245 sites have been blocked by the government.

"The government is for free information. There is no question of anything being censored here. But that does not mean there are not limitations," a government spokesperson said.

During last year’s riots in London, MPs debated shutting down Blackberry’s popular BBM messaging service in the interest of public safety but the ban was ultimately not implemented. Blackberry’s penetration into 37 per cent of the youth market influenced the scale of the use of BBM to organise riot activities.

In India, 50 per cent of the 36 million Facebook users in the country are under 50 years old. Facebook and Google have both expressed compliance with the requests the Indian government has made. Twitter has not yet responded to inquiries.