A report submitted by a panel of secretaries to the government on Wednesday said that lynching incidents are part of a larger problem of unchecked malicious content on websites and social media platforms, mainly targeting children, women and minorities, the Hindustan Times reported.

The panel, headed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, deliberated on measures to check growing incidents of mob lynching. The panel submitted its report to a group of ministers headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The group of ministers will present the final recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The panel has taken the view that lynching is basically part of the overall issue of malicious and pornographic content floating in the cyber space,” an unidentified home ministry official said. “The content targets vulnerable sections like children, women and minorities...There is [a] need to remove this content from cyber space to address the larger issue. The government has held a series of meetings with the social media platforms in this regard.”

The panel reportedly concluded that social media platforms need to act in a “time bound” manner, reported The Hindu. An unidentified senior government official said social media platforms would be held accountable for not blocking malicious content when brought to their notice. The official added that an “FIR could be lodged against their country heads” for non-compliance of government orders and they could be prosecuted under law.

The home ministry official said law enforcement agencies in the country need to increase their presence in the cyberspace. “It is like having more security personnel on the ground but a fine balance will have to maintained considering privacy concerns,” said the official, adding that the group of ministers has the option of strengthening the law and creating a new one.

Another unidentified home ministry official told The Hindu that social media platforms were given a report showing their compliance with the various government orders. “Compliance should be timely, they have agreed to better it,” the official said. The official also said people can report malicious videos and content to a new portal which will be forwarded by the National Crime Records Bureau to the states concerned for appropriate action.

Mob lynchings

A spate of mob lynchings has claimed dozens of lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka since March. In nearly all cases, the mobs seem to have been incited by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers. The victims range from innocent people asking for directions, transgender people, the poor, and the mentally disturbed.