In an alleged bid to get its citizens to do more “research” on the information they see online, the Indian government has rolled out new measures. In effect, 35 WhatsApp groups have been banned based on reports that they may have been disseminating “misinformation” about the newly introduced Agnipath scheme within the groups.
The Agnipath scheme is a new military scheme to recruit new members to the military between the ages of 17.5 to 21-years only, without pension provisions for those released early – unlike an older scheme that allowed older members and had a 15+ year tenure with lifelong pension. The Defense Minister went on to say that only 25% of the new recruits will be “regularized” at the end of their four year contract, based on their performance. The remaining 75% of recruits will be dismissed at the end of their term without receiving pensionary benefits. Critics have been protesting the changes and protests have broken out in various regions.
Recent reports have claimed that various social media channels and communications platforms, such as WhatsApp, have been utilized to stir and organize protests in states such as Bihar.
In addition, the Indian Government has set up a hotline in an effort to encourage users to “fact check” the information that they find on WhatsApp.
Multiple districts in the states affected by these new measures are also facing internet shutdowns. This includes the state of Bihar, where the state government has suspended internet service in 12 districts under its control. The government is claiming that the internet was being used in the region to spread ‘objectionable content’ in efforts to stir controversy and incite a public uproar.
According to an ANI report, 10 people have allegedly been arrested already in connection with the spread of “misinformation” about the scheme.