Army's Tough Rules for Social Media Use After WhatsApp Trouble

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Army's Tough Rules for Social Media Use After WhatsApp Trouble

A screenshot of the guidelines for use on social media on the Indian Army's Facebook page


New Delhi:  The Indian Army is on the offensive after being caught off-guard by a string of unsigned messages on social media sites such as WhatsApp.

In a series of guidelines that it today published on its Facebook page, the Army has said, "personnel are prohibited from circulating chain mails, messages, posts etc on aspects of Armed Forces." Interestingly, the Army also asks veterans to be careful on what messages they forward.  

The Army's guidelines come after several unsigned messages were critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's election speech in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday where he had politicised the Budgam incident in which two innocent people were killed.  

In its Facebook post today, the Army says, "there has been a concerted attempt by inimical elements to tarnish the image of the Army by posting malicious and damaging content based on half truths."  

Earlier, in a statement to NDTV, senior Army officials said that the anonymous social media messages being discussed were part of a psychological warfare operation meant to spring disenchantment in its ranks. 

According to the Army, "all the messages are part of a malafide operation.... None of the messages have been written by serving officers of the Indian Army.  Army Headquarters is monitoring social media 24/7."

NDTV has also accessed two separate and seemingly unrelated WhatsApp posts which were being forwarded among the large online defence community. One of the messages, claiming to be about the Uri encounter in which 11 soldiers and policemen were killed, said, "The terrorists desperately tried to break the cordon established by Lieutenant Colonel Sankalp Kumar, Havildar Subhash Chand and Naik Gurmail Singh but these brave hearts fought till their last breath."

The Army says this message is a complete fabrication since the sequence of events described is incorrect and the Commanding Officer of the unit has denied that anyone in his unit has posted this.

The WhatsApp messages, fake or real, continue to be circulated despite a message from Army Commander General DS Hooda to officers sent several weeks back. In his message, the General said, "The print, electronic and social media are powerful tools which sway not only public opinion but also the sentiments of our own officers and men. Let us not fall prey to them."

For the Indian Army, the battle on social media is one that it is unaccustomed to. The anonymous nature of applications like Whatsapp mean that it is often impossible to get to the bottom of who is posting these messages. But the message from Army Headquarters is clear -- These are not our men or women. This is psychological warfare and we need to defend ourselves against such attacks.
 


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