Saturday, 18 August 2012

No upper cap on daily sms limit responsible for spread of rumours

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 17: The lifting of limit on sms and lack of
accountability by social media and microblogging sites has added fuel
to the rumour-mongering machine triggering panic among people of
northeast region.

Though the government banned bulk sms service for a fortnight on
Friday in a bid to contain the spread of rumours, social media and
microblogging sites continued to be abuzz with messages, many of which
were offensive in nature. The government is yet to rein in the social
media though it has occasionally asked them to filter out abusive

On Friday, too it issued a similar directive, but failed to control
abusive exchanges. There were abusive messages on Twitter that wall
posters had come up in Hyderabad urging NE people to leave the city.
Incidentally, reporting abuse in Twitter is an elaborate procedure and
there is no direct button to report abuse instantly.

However, some responsible netizens made it a point to reassure the
people of northeast region that they are safe in any part of the
country, be it Hyderabad, Pune or Bengaluru. They tweeted positive
things about these cities urging the panic-stricken people to stay back.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last year imposed
restriction on the number of sms messages a user should send a month.
The limit was later relaxed for certain categories. Recently the
restriction was completely waived following a court judgment.
Thousands of sms messages were exchanged on the first two days further
triggering panic reactions.

Many netizens suggested that the government too should have used the
sms facility to counter the rumours and create confidence among the
people. “Why cannot government send a broadcast sms to everyone
providing updates on the situation”, tweeted Rajesh (@bigrjs).

The northeast community (Hyderabad Manipuri Society) in Hyderabad,
which has a page on the social media site, Facebook, created a
helpline and kept on posting messages urging people not to panic.

State BJP president G Kishan Reddy tweeted, “I appeal to all my
Hyderabadi brothers and sisters to reach out to our NE Indian friends
and make them feel safe and comfortable”. He said he was personally
handling North East Indians helpline for Hyderabad on 9490599997.
Anyone who faces threat, feel free to call me”, he added.

“Why has not the government still not managed to trace the source of
that panic creating sms? Why? It has been more than four days now,
right?” said @Neelanjana B on Twitter. Many echoed the feeling on
Facebook and Twitter.

Some found fault with the government for banning bulk sms facility for
about 15 days. “There are criminals and fugitives on the loose in the
country. Solution? Put entire population in jail… LOL” tweeted

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Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

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Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity