India wants a 24/7 monitoring centre to handle cyber threat from ISIS and other terror outfits

The Indian government is planning to start a 24×7 monitoring room to tackle cyber threat received from ISIS, as the radical Islamic group is trying to lure young Indian Muslim men into its fold by spreading propaganda material in Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati and Urdu on cyber space.

Intelligence inputs point out that the terror outfit sees potential recruits from across the country due to the increasing use of Indian languages to spread the message of ISIS. Besides English and Hindi, numerous regional languages are also being used to put out pro-ISIS material. In the past, Bangla has also been used to spread ISIS’ hate propaganda targeting susceptible youths in India and Bangladesh.

On December 15, the government set up a committee to determine the effectiveness of setting up a multi-agency 24×7 social media analysis centre and blue print of setting up a “situation room” to analyse social media, Daily Mail reported.

In a written reply to a parliament question on Wednesday, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, stated that the committee is headed by Ashok Prasad, Secretary of Internal Security in the Home Ministry, and has members from the Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, and central intelligence agencies.

First reported in August by the Mail Today, the government was planning an inter-ministerial body devoted to the scrutiny of social media.

The jihadi group’s ideology that was put up on the internet has attracted Indian youths who have already joined or desire to join ISIS. “ISIS handlers get in touch with potential recruits on social media. The vulnerable ones get radicalised after interacting with ISIS members, handlers online and then they are given further instructions on how to join the outfit,” said an intelligence official.

Unitl now, 23 Indians have been accounted for who joined ISIS and several others were stopped before they could leave the country to join the group in Syria, according to intelligence reports. Of the 23, six are reportedly dead and two have returned, while 15 Indians are still part of ISIS. Several of them are also in touch with Indian handlers who are hiring for ISIS. According to an intelligence official, “Some of these handlers were active within the country and some are in the Gulf.”

The Indians who are still in the ISIS war zone want to return home fearing for their lives point out recent intelligence inputs. The terror threat on social media also covers the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and is not only restricted to ISIS.

The intelligence agencies were notified about the increasing threat on cyber space after the arrest of Bengaluru-based executive, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who had allegedly put out material in favour of ISIS last year. Increasingly, the online social domains are becoming the new ground for terror outfit groups. Since then several youths have been intercepted who were recruited online and wanted to join ISIS.

There are about 30,000 Twitter handles, users on social media forums and websites that are spreading hatred and very little can be done to keep a check on them all and act in time.

It’s not just pro-terror group marketing but also reactions to unpredictable developments within the country that have the calibre to disturb public order and communal harmony. Recently, putting up of hate content on a social media had led to communal clashes. Also, reactions to various communal instances have also had the tendency to disrupt public law and order.

While the government has banned certain websites for hate mongering, it is also trying to ensure that hate content is removed from platforms like Facebook and Twitter, added the sources.

A study done by agencies in charge of observing the online content led to the action being endorsed, after it found out that numerous websites and social media forums were being widely used as a tool for creating communal outbursts.

Officials of Ministries of Home and Telecommunication and agencies like National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Computer Emergency Response Emergency Team-India (CERTIn) are mulling over on immediate measures to fight against the increasing use of the cyber space for spreading communal animosity.

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