“@ashutosh83B अरे कलुए तूने बिजेपी का नाम नहीं लिया लेले चुतिया खाना हजम नहीं होगा”. On the face of it, there is nothing unusual about this post. You will see scores of such abusive posts on social media on any given day. Yet we post it here for a reason. This and many other posts like this were “liked” by the official Twitter handle of the ‘Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, New York’.
The twitter handle of India’s mission at the United Nations regularly tweets updates from the External Affairs ministry about India’s official engagements with other countries. Who would expect this account with a serious mandate to “like” posts abusing other political parties and their leaders? Yes, much to the shock of twitter users, the official Twitter handle of ‘India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations’ recorded its appreciation for a set of anti-AAP abusive posts last week. Is there an abusive troll sitting behind the keyboard of this important government handle?
Here are a few examples of the posts that were “liked” by this twitter account:
“Open office at Karachi” (A photoshopped picture of Arvind Kejriwal wearing Pakistani flag)
“अबे चूतियों क्रिमनल ग्राफ दिन बा दिन ऊपर जा रहा है तुम लोगों का ओर आफिस के लिए मर रहे हो”
“अरे भाई इनको राशन कार्ड भी तो बनाना है ofc तो चाहिए ना”
The “likes” were for the responses to this tweet of AAP
सिर्फ़ शून्य सीट पाने वाली कौंग्रेस के पास 5 ऑफ़िस,एक प्लॉट है और 67 सीट पाने वाली AAP से ऑफ़िस छीना जा रहा है,
सच अब जनता के सामने है ! pic.twitter.com/hEG3wvK1es
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) August 23, 2017
The “likes” have now been deleted, or rather “unliked”. The number of likes which was earlier 1003 is now down to 936. This means that this official handle “unliked” close to 70 posts. There was no apology or explanation from the Ministry for this lapse.
This is not the first time that a government of India official handle has engaged in despicable social media behavior. Here are some other recent incidents.
Recently, the Twitter handle of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) had retweeted an anti-Congress post, calling Congress the enemy of India
The airport had apologized and claimed that its handle was “subjected to a hacker attack”. Interestingly, the hacker only posted one tweet from the account he hacked.
In October last year, the official twitter handle of the Indian postal service had tweeted an Anti-AAP post.
Within hours, India Post had tweeted an apology saying that the account was hacked. Once again, the hacker limited his activity to only one tweet.
In September 2016, the Twitter handle of Digital India, had tweeted a poem in Hindi, calling the Indian Army to fire at protesting Kashmiris.
“Kill to your heart’s content, army!
Beat them till their bones break,
If Mehbooba calls in the police,
Modi shall handle the situation.”
(Translated by an article in Quartz India.
In this case Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said, “The contents of the tweet don’t represent the views of the IT ministry, Digital India or the government of India. I regret the tweet.” He had also confirmed that the person who tweeted the poem has been suspended.
The official handle of All India Radio had tweeted about Rahul Gandhi, asking, “Why he got scared earlier? How he became daring again to defame #RSS?”. This was in the context of the case was filed by the RSS against Rahul Gandhi for his remarks about the role of the RSS in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi.
The tweet was subsequently deleted.
Start Up India, another important government initiative had retweeted two tweets abusing journalists.
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had explained this saying that “The unauthorised re-tweets were done by one employee of the agency duly hired by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion through a tendering process.”
Clearly something is not right with the way government’s social media accounts are being handled. It is likely that these tweets, retweets and likes were the result of using the same device for multiple twitter handles. The government is very keen to be visible on social media but such repeated incidents raise concerns about their readiness to do so and the selection and training of the social media team. Are there social media guidelines for the government? Barring a few cases where we have seen an apology and an explanation, the government departments have fumbled by claiming that the account was mysteriously hacked. The worst is when they stay silent in the hope that no one will notice it. Like how the ‘official Twitter handle of the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, New York’ has reacted in this case.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.