The central government will examine if calls can be blocked in insurgency-hit areas such as Jammu and Kashmir after reports that militants are using the feature on the messaging app to stay in touch with their handlers across the border, officials said.
The issue was flagged during a meeting on Monday under the chairmanship of home secretary Rajiv Gauba where the recent arrests in 2016 was highlighted. The arrested militants of told the Jammu and Kashmir Police that they were taking directions from across the border through WhatsApp calls, they said.
Seven Army men were killed in the terror attack.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently took custody of the three people, arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police for their alleged involvement in helping the terrorists which included ferrying them from the border and guiding them to the Army camp.
The meeting, which was attended by top officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and those from security agencies as well as Jammu and Kashmir Police, was called to discuss the removal of malicious content from various social networking sites posted by ‘keypad jihadis’, who spew venom on the Internet with an intent to create a law and order situation by spreading rumours or giving communal colour to any event.
The use of Internet for making calls has increased the problems for security agencies who have been unable to crack it due to end-to-end encryption by the service provider, they said.
An example of some countries which included those from the Gulf were cited during the meeting where neither WhatsApp voice nor video calling was allowed, they said.
An official statement released said the meeting discussed effective measures to be taken by the law enforcement agencies to tackle the security challenges being posed by terrorists, militants and also individuals propagating child pornography using the social media platforms.
The meeting also discussed steps to enhance coordination among the law enforcement agencies, MeitY and DoT to block and remove malicious content under sections 69 (Power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource) and 79 (limited access to a communication system over which information made available by third parties is transmitted or temporarily stored or hosted) of the IT Act.
It was decided that law enforcement agencies will closely coordinate with MeitY to ensure that the action to block the content on social media platforms is taken in a timely manner.
This will be followed by a meeting with the representatives of social media platforms for compliance, the statement said.
The meeting also discussed implementation of the provisions of the Information Technology Act pertaining to security agencies in dealing with the menace which includes filing of FIRs, removal of the malicious content at the earliest in coordination with the service provider and ensuring speedy legal proceedings so that it could act as a deterrent for others.
The idea behind the crackdown on ‘keypad jihadis’ was to ensure that the security agencies could concentrate more on nabbing or eliminating terrorists with real guns rather than those who wage war against the state machinery using computers.
The forthcoming two-month long Amarnath Yatra is of immediate concern as they apprehend that anyone, while just sitting from the confines of a home, can plant fake news in one of the thousand chat groups and the entire state can plunge into communal violence, the officials said.
They claimed there have been instances when fake pictures of desecration of shrines are circulated by a particular community and all of sudden there is an outrage when no such incident had taken place.