31 July 2016
Huffington Post India

Government Plans To Closely Track, Counter News And Blogs Online

23/02/2016 12:24 PM IST | Updated July 15, 2016 08:26
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a public speech to a crowd of mostly Indian nationals at the Singapore Expo, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015 in Singapore. Modi is on a two-day official visit to the city-state. (AP Photo/Joseph Nair)

NEW DELHI -- The Indian government has decided to set up a special media cyber cell to counter ‘negative’ news, according to a report in Indian Express.

“The government will keep a watch on the narrative in all such threads. Every time a negative narrative surfaces, a possible counter would be initiated—through press releases, briefings or press conferences, depending on the intensity or standing of the post,” according to an unnamed source quoted in the report.

This comes a month after the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), which looks after India's political, economic, energy and strategic security concerns, proposed that a National Media Analytics Centre (NMAC) should be created to monitor news on websites, blogs, television, newspapers and even social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube.

While this proposal was sent to Press Information Bureau director general Frank Noronha by Deputy National Security Advisor Arvind Gupta, as per the report, a four-member committee that examined it has apparently said there is no space for it in the National Media Centre.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister's Office had asked its ministries to take action on media reports that portray the government in negative light.

The NMAC proposal is reportedly based on tracking software designed by Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, who is an Assistant Professor at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi.

Governments in other countries have adopted different measures to counter negative news. While it is common for governments to adopt a strategy to correct false or distorted news reports through its press wings — Thailand's military government recently announced an aggressive PR campaign against such "misinformation" — India may be going more the South Korea way by tracking and countering individual writers. Last week, Japan too cracked down on media for not showing "fairness" by portraying the country's economy in shambles.

Not only would this software track negative stories appearing across media and social platforms, it would also be able to analyse the "past pattern" of the writer, thereby tracking any bias. “The software would also help recall the past pattern of the writer to check the number of times he took a negative or positive stand, his background, and preferences of websites and areas of interest to judge whether they were aimed at fomenting trouble or radicalisation,” unnamed sources told Express.

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