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Social media is being used as an alibi by a government that failed to prevent the Muzaffarnagar violence.
When a local administration and police fail to control spiralling violence, anywhere in the world, they now have a readymade line of defence. From Brazil to Turkey, the UK to the US, scapegoating social media has proven to be the easiest thing to do — and the most useless. After the Muzaffarnagar situation escalated, the Uttar Pradesh police and the state home secretary said people were using social media and fake videos to disturb communal harmony. I&B Minister Manish Tewari has spoken darkly of regulation of the "ungovernable" internet in times of crisis.
It is claimed that a video of a lynching in Pakistan was circulated in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas to misleading effect, that newspaper headlines were morphed and posted on social media sites. Certainly, social media can vastly amplify messages, and instantly diffuse information. Last year, thousands of Northeastern migrants fled home in fear, from across Indian cities, after incendiary rumours were spread through MMS and text message, using images that originated in Myanmar. Social media also, in concept, makes sudden and coordinated acts of violence possible. This is why governments often apply temporary brakes on bulk messaging and put third-party providers like Google, Facebook etc, on alert during times of violent disorder. Equally, social media can be used to identify and monitor who is spreading misconceptions through the network, and to allay fears.