Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday warned the Centre that “illegal use” of a “social media army” can backfire. He asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take steps against fake social media accounts, in an editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
Raut referred to 80,000 social media accounts allegedly created using false identities to discredit the Mumbai Police and Maharashtra government’s investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. “Amit Shah is the home minister and he should acknowledge that the illegal use of cyber army can be destructive for the country and society,” Raut said. “The use of this army for character assassination of opponents and to stifle dissent can backfire on the country.”
Raut alleged that the use of a social media army which viciously attacks its opponents has become the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national policy. “BJP won the last two general elections with the help of social media,” Raut said. “A poisonous campaign that would put Goebbels [Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister] to shame was implemented.”
Raut alleged that Amit Shah had once told BJP workers that “we can make news acceptable through our thousands of WhatsApp groups”. The Shiv Sena leader said such confidence was good for the head of a party but the home minister should not forget that he was in charge of the country today.
Raut said that the social media that the BJP used to target Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could also be used against them, as when it mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi seated in an army jeep waving his hands through an empty tunnel.
Pointing to media bias, Raut said that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami did not seem to think that the Hathras gangrape was important compared to Rajput’s death. Raut said Goswami had criticised those protesting against the gangrape. The Central Bureau of Investigation is now probing the case.
The Shiv Sena leader said Goswami, who is now embroiled in a fake Television Rating Points case, did not bring up the suicide of former Central Bureau of Investigation chief Ashwani Kumar because it would not bring ratings. “You show that you are the number one channel by manipulating TRPs, so that you can get advertisements and make profits,” Raut said of Republic TV. He alleged that the scam was worth Rs 30,000 crore.
Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani on Sunday reached the Mumbai Police’s headquarters for questioning in the fake TRPs scam. The police had on Saturday also sent summons to the news channel’s chief operating officers Hersh Bhandari and Priya Mukherjee, Distribution Head Ghanshyam Singh, the Chief Executive Officer of Hansa Research Group Praveen Nijhara and another employee.
Raut said that the Mumbai Police were fighting against fake social media accounts and TRPs, and added that everyone should join in in this endeavour.