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Social Media and Internal Security Threat

Published: 12th Jul, 2019

 Social Media can be defined as any web or mobile based platform that enables an individual or agency to communicate interactively and enables exchange of user generated content and it is explained by a number of tools, which includes blogs, Wikis, discussion forums, micro-blogs, twitter and social networking sites. 

Social Media in recent times has become synonymous with Social Networking sites such as Facebook or Micro Blogging sites such as Twitter. 
The advantages of Social media are so many but they are posing threat to Internal Security in various forms like Cyber Terrorism, Fraud, crime, spreading violence, etc.
According to the Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report, the highest concentration of online security threats are on mass audience sites, including social media. 
The rapid spread of false information through social media is among the emerging risks identified by the World Economic Forum in its Global Risks 2013 Report.
National Security is of prime importance for any nation to maintain peace and harmony. Nations face numerous internal security challenges and Social Media act as the platform for that. Social media is not security threat in itself but the users of these services can pose the threats by their anti-social endeavours.
With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud. Additionally, these platforms have huge confidential user information, and are likely vulnerable to outside or inside attack which is detrimental to Internal Security. 
Different Internal Security threats due to Social Media are:
1) Cyber Terrorism:
The biggest challenge for internal security of nation through social networking site is cyber terrorism. 
Today terrorists select Social Media as a practical alternative to disturb the function of nations and other business activities because this technique has potential to cause huge damage. It poses enormous threat in international system and attracts the mass media, the security community, and the information technology corporation. 
At the same time, due to the convenience, affordability and broad reach of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, terrorist groups have increasingly used social media to further their goals and spread their message. 
Social Media became a platform for coordination of plans of attack, communication with cells, or propaganda and information and spread of hate campaign or messages that can hurt the sentiments of people.
These groups now have their own websites where they can convey their propaganda and, for most of them, they advise their readers and followers not to trust the media which are seen as the enemy. 
The chat service like Skype, which includes voice and video capabilities, has become particularly popular with terrorist cells. Chat rooms and electronic forums enable the insurgent and extremists groups to communicate with members and supporters all over the world, to recruit new followers and to share information at little risk of identification by authorities.
Youths are especially targeted for propaganda, incitement and recruitment purposes by terrorist groups.
2) Fraud: 
Social networking sites also invite fraudsters to take excellent opportunity to become wealthy by applying deceiver schemes. 
3) Criminal Activity and Money laundering:
Internet Media is a major resource for developing serious crime. As Internet is growing explosively, online criminals try to present fraudulent plans in many ways. Social networking sites also pose major challenge in financial and organized crime which destabilizes the system. It creates threat to a company's security because of what employees might disclose and they are on prime target for cyber criminals.
4) International users:
The other national and international users such as the political parties, NGO's, hackers pose a serious threat using the social media. For example, during the civil turmoil in the Arab Spring Uprising, the various governments were threatened through the social media. 
5) To Bring Revolution: 
Some countries in the world feel threatened by the fact that social media can bring the people together and thus, create a revolution. This in turn can cause political instability
6) Communal Violence and Fanning Tensions: 
Importantly, social media also seems to be playing a significant role in polarising different communities in India and compounding India's Security challenges. The viral videos and false updates of communal clashes, riots and terrorists attack have created a massive impact in the life of public.
The power of media and the process of public opinion formation in a free society had undergone radical change due to Internet and faster means of communications like SMS, whats app, viber and simplified mobile internet. The chain of events beginning with the clashes in our North-east and which caused very serious and mass exodus of North-east population from several Indian cities has revealed the fragility of our national Cohesion.
7) Virtual Community: 
Popular social networking websites are another means of attracting potential members and followers. These types of virtual communities are growing increasingly popular all over the world, especially among younger demographics. This can build Anti-national Sentiments among Society.
8) Hacking:
Hackers write or use ready-made computer programs to attack the target computer. By using Social Media hackers breach the national security and steal important data of defence or other strategic sectors. This can kneel the whole country without using Arms and Ammunition.
Although social media has the potential to be a threat to national security, it also has the opportunity to strengthen National Security and to be used to benefit the Government. 
One of the fastest growing ways that Governments are using social media is as a warning or trend prevention tool. As a monitoring tool, the government is able to recognize the first signs of any hostile or potentially dangerous activity by collecting and analyzing messages in order to try to predict events that could be a danger to National Security. 
Another important use of social media by the government is as an institutional Communication Tool. Social Media provides a medium that creates cohesion between federal agencies by increasing both communication and transparency.

Surveillance Projects in India

e-Surveillance Projects: National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Central Monitoring System (CMS), Internet Spy System Network and Traffic Analysis System (NETRA) of India, National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIPC) of India, National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) of India, Tri Service Cyber Command for Armed Forces of India, Cyber Attacks Crisis Management Plan Of India.

Challenges in Monitoring Social Media

1)    Server Location and Laws of Different Countries: Lack of Geographical Boundaries makes social media regulation an arduous task. Major Complicating Factors to secure the networks and Media Much of the hardware and software that make up the communications ecosystem is sourced externally.

2)    Encrypted Message: Use of phones/whatsapp to send and receive messages, concerns the government because the communications sent via such devices and applications are encrypted and could not be monitored and consequently hinders the country's efforts to fight terrorism and crime.

3)    Complicated Networks: The task of securing the networks is also complicated by the fact that much of the infrastructure is in the hands of private companies who see measures such as security auditing and other regulations and frameworks as adding to their costs. Source of Origin is difficult to find out.


In a globalised society media becomes a lethal weapon against the enemy, and the populace as well. Information, as an element of soft power, is a strategic instrument within the context of grand strategy. There should be judicious use of social media. But we will have to mull steps to check its misuse for creating Internal security threat to Nation. Social Media, with all its benefits and the potential for more, is definitely a boon to our world, however misuse or irresponsible usage can have negative affectson  an Internal security. We need to guard against the negative impact of the social media, which ought to be used in the correct manner for creative or productive purposes so that it is progressive to mankind and society at large, rather than regressive.



 Media is the means of communication that reaches or influences people widely, has a significant place in the statecraft machinery especially in the age of information revolution. It is the source of information for a society regarding any issue be it local, regional or global, people rely and even trust on what is presented to them by media.

The media has become an important tool of the statecraft in the modern era. It is the 'fourth estate' which helps the state to further its interests, objectives and goals .

Therefore, media act as an influential and instrumental tool with regards to building confidence or promoting mistrust among people on issues related to national security.

Technology has endowed the electronic media with three major attributes -

i)     Instantaneity: Instantaneity has provided it with a ringside view in real time,

ii)    Spontaneity: Spontaneity has allowed it cover events as they unfold

iii)   Locality: Locality has provided it with the power to bring the farthest corner of the globe into a household.

This has also enhanced the reach and, therefore, the hold of the electronic media over the viewers' minds. It has, however, also given rise to a multiplicity of players in this field, with consequential concerns of accountability, responsibility and public good.


•      It is, therefore necessary to ensure that the media is prompt, responsible, sensitive, accurate and objective in its presentation of news. In the context of maintenance of public order, the role of the media could go a long way in preventing rumour mongering and incorrect or mischievous coverage by a small section of the media which could be supportive of partisan elements.

•      The central issue is how to have an effective interface with the media. Given the technological environment in which the media functions today, the fact that there is no monopoly over sources of information and the need to have an informed public, control measures are neither feasible nor desirable.

•      It is incumbent on the administration to continuously provide the media with immediate, accurate and reliable information so that, the public is not left with gaps in their information which might be filled by sensational and biased news reporting. This requires capability building at various levels of the administrative machinery so as to provide a transparent and responsive administration.

•      To ensure that government officials interact with the media in a professional manner, media management modules should be integrated in various training programmes. Media persons may also be associated with such training modules. Emphasis on local language media would obviously be useful.

•      In hierarchical structures within the government, interaction with the media is generally regulated to avoid confusion and contradictions. To overcome such hindrances, officials should be designated at appropriate levels to interact with the media and their accessibility should be ensured.

Thus to maintain internal security following principles have to be followed:

•      Ensuring the objective presentation of news and fair and unbiased comment, to promote the advancement of education and culture.

•      Raising and maintain high standards of decency and decorum in all programmes.

•      Providing programmes for the young which, by variety and content, will inculcate the principles of good citizenship.

•      Promoting communal harmony, religious tolerance and international understanding.

•      Treating controversial public issues in an impartial and dispassionate manner.

•      Respecting human rights and dignity.

Way Ahead

Ideally, media should be impartial and free from the propaganda mechanisms. It should provide balanced account to the people. Media educates and keeps the public informed about the national and international political and other human realities taking place in everyday life. The purpose of media is to highlight the trouble spots in the society and press the government and public to devise suitable mechanisms to eliminate those troubles.

However, the potential of media as a force multiplier and a weapon of war must be realized. Failure to recognize and counter enemy’s usage of media could lead to unprecedented military and national failures. It must be realized that today decisions are no longer based on events but on how the events are presented.

Thus to understand the different threats posed by Media to the internal security of India have been analysed under different heads.

One of the biggest challenges of today's world is Terrorism & its increasing reach. Almost all the continents are facing it with the same urge. Terrorist organizations are using media & especially electronic media like internet platforms, emails, and social media etc. due to convenience, affordability & broad reach provided by it.

Case Studies of Uses of Social Media by Terrorist Organizations:

1)     In Recruitment from other countries: 

ISIS is using the network of their recruiters around the world & paying them $2000 to $10000 depending upon who is recruited. Recruiters are using social media platform. They are releasing videos of to target individuals who are susceptible to its message of violence and adventure. ISIS has also benefited from "disseminators", individuals who are sympathetic to their cause but not fighting for them. Social media and other communication methods has also enabled those who are willing to be radicalised to directly engage with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and communicate with ISIS fighters. As per new confidential U.S. intelligence assessment indicates that as many as 30,000 foreigners from more than 100 countries have flocked to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of ISIS in the past year, double the number of recruits from the year before. Of the 30,000 newcomers more than 4,500 have come from Western countries, including 250 Americans and 750 Britons In Europe it is Belgium from where more than 500 people joined ISIS.

India is also suffered from it however less severely. So far, near 23 Indians have gone to ISIS hold areas in Iraq-Syria to fight for the terrorist group.

2)    In Name of religion:

A 26-year-old MBA from Hyderabad, decided to leave his pregnant wife to join the ISIS in Syria. To do khidmat (service) and be part of the ISIS or the Islamic State, this young man, like many other Indian Muslims, had been interacting with handlers on the social media and gradually getting lured to the idea of attaining jannat (heaven) by serving the Sunni terror group that has massacred thousands in order to set up a Caliphate. After watching ISIS videos and interacting with radicals, he wanted to go to Syria.

3)   Targeting Women:

Recently three teenage girls left their homes and families in London to travel to Syria and join ISIS. Days before the girls' departure, a Twitter account appearing to belong to 15-year-old Shamima Begum tweeted to an account associated with a female ISIS member known online as ‘Umm Layth’. Umm Layth is the name used online by Aqsa Mahmood, a 20-year-old woman who ran away from her home in Glasgow in November 2013 to join ISIS and marry a militant. Mahmood is part of a small clique of ISIS women with active and publicly visible Twitter profiles. They use the platform to share "the truth" about their lives in Syria and Iraq and make themselves available to potential "recruits." These accounts actively encourage interested parties to reach out to them using messaging apps like. Kik and SureSpot for advice on how to "make hijrah," or migrate, to the "Islamic State." In addition to offering one-on-one advice, these accounts also continually tweet reasons why women should leave their countries and join the militant group. Accounts claiming to belong to ISIS fighters also applaud the women who have joined the group. One of the much-touted selling points of living in ISIS-controlled territory, according to these accounts, is its diverse membership.

4)    Use of Print Media:

Copies of Dabiq which carries ISIS propaganda on an array of topics including jihad and reviving slavery were available for $26. The product description described Dabiq as "a periodical magazine focusing on issues of tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war), and jama'ah (community), including photo reports, current events, and informative articles on matters relating to the Islamic State." Despite going on sale Saturday, Dabiq is freely available online. The magazine is part of ISIS's sophisticated propaganda efforts that also include YouTube videos and forays into social media.

Social Media in the arena of Communal Violence:

i)     2012 North East Violence:

In July 2012, violence in the Indian state of Assam broke out with riots between indigenous Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims. The violence and exodus of thousands of people from North-east India reportedly led to a series of incessant protests in Assam, at multiple locations, during the months of August-September. The protesters' main demand was expeditious detection and deportation of illegal infiltrators from Assam.

Nearly 80 people have been killed and 4,00,000 displaced in fighting between Muslims and mostly Hindu Bodo tribesmen in North-eastern Assam state. The mass flight was sparked by rumours that Muslims, a big minority in predominantly Hindu India, were seeking revenge for the Assam violence. First a Mumbai demonstration in support of Muslims in Assam turned violent, leaving two people dead. Then tens of thousands of people from the Northeast who lived and worked in big cities in the south of India packed up and fled back home terrorized by Facebook, Twitter and text messages threatening them with violence in retaliation for what was happening in the North. The Indian government accused Pakistani agents of producing the threatening material to destabilize India. Then India went on a web crackdown, ostensibly trying to shut off the social media causing the panic but setting off a fierce debate about censorship in the process.

As the government began to dig in to the cause of the panic, the story became increasingly strange. Almost none of the images that were ostensibly outraging Muslims in the rest of India, and potentially spurring them to acts of vicious revenge, were actually of Assam. The much-circulated Facebook images were Photoshopped (often badly) pictures of atrocities allegedly carried out against Muslims in Burma several years ago or entirely unrelated pictures (such as those of Buddhist monks helping earthquake victims in Tibet) purporting to be from Assam. But the media consumers in question were not sophisticated, and the rationality was lost in the mass panic.

The use of bulk SMSs and social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge that the recent disturbances have thrown before us we need to devise strategies to counter the propaganda that iscarried out by these new means. Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate.

ii)    Muzaffarnagar Riots:

Social Media had a key role in the Muzaffarnagar riots also, the posts by user over Facebook, Twitter, SMS & coverage by the Indian media tend to affect to mold the opinions and actions of the other individuals of the society.

27th August 2013, a terrifying yet sad day in India which gave birth to a new group of communal riots namely 'Muzaffarnagar Riots'. Severe clashes between the two communities, the 'Muslims' and 'Jats' in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, India broke out in the parts of rural areas and communally sensitive district of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh which claimed more than 43 lives leaving 93 plus injured.

From inception, the situations and factors which led to the emergence of such serious riots and violence was, on this one day when a Hindu girl was walking past a Muslim community on her way to school; she was being harassed by a man who passed lewd, insulting comments on her. Subsequently killing of Muslim boy & lynching of girl's brother in revenge started the problem which turned into a social unrest.

This was not the end but a beginning which opened doors to the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. The girl's father, when tried filing a FIR against the family of the boy who had harassed the girl, the police refused to register the FIR. On the other hand, when the Muslim family went to file a FIR for the murder of their son who harassed the girl, the police readily registered the case and arrested the Father of the girl with his other close relatives.

Here, the problem actually started, as by thinking that, clear discrimination was done by the administration, theJat community requested the panchayat of their community to force the police in order to drop the charges against girl's father. Nonetheless, the Administration did not take any final decision. The Jat community again approached the Panchayat under the 'BahuBetiBachaoSammelan' and distributed a few inflammatory videos and pictures via CD/MMS. In situation when no action taken by administration, Muslim community attacked the Hindu on certain day . After this incident, the riots spread like fire which became uncontrollable.

The vernacular media and a few major national news channels (electronic) have seemed to have played a vital role in provoking and instigating serious violence and aggression against the Muslim community. Through unfound and false stories, a mischievous and deliberate attempt in spreading hatred between the communities was a part of the role which the media played. Nonetheless, with the support of the representatives of political parties like BJP, they used social media like Facebook, MMS and CD's as a tool arouse hatred before as well as during the riots. Moreover, the people of Muzaffarnagar gave a communal color to the violence by exaggerating the incidents. Many Hindi news channels and newspapers misreported the happenings on daily basis by setting up a picture in the minds of the public that it was the Muslims who were slaughtering the Hindus and initiating distorted violence. As a result, there was a severe rise in the rumors and passion to fight and revolt back in the riots.


The internet has become an integral part of modern living. The spread of social media and the use of platforms is changing the way society operates. Social media has been playing a destructive role in inciting communal violence in India and time has come to check its misuse. Social networking sites are a threat to national security as they are used as tools for drug trafficking, money laundering and match-fixing, terrorism, instigating violence and for rumor tools etc. Social media tools like Blogs, Wikis, Discussion forums, Micro blogs, SMS, And the most burning issue, i.e. Social networking sites Facebook, Twitter etc.

Social Media can be  defined, among other things, as  tools; how they are used, by whom they are used and for what  reason can represent either a threat or an opportunity for  National Security, it is itself shouldn't  be seen as a potential threat  to National Security but those who use these tools may  pose a potential risk.

"It is now a given that social media environments are important sources of data for understanding the dynamics of the diffusion of information and human behavior”. Evidence suggests that, social media had an impact on events such as Mujaffarnagar riots, Godhara Riots, Babri Masjid riots etc. Groups representing a potential threat to National Security like, International terrorist groups, Transnational Crime Organisations, Cracker groups, Religious sections, Hacker groups, NGO's, International organizations,Allied foreign states, terrorist groups etc.


 Throughout history, nation & states have faced security threats from both internal and external sources, but in modern times internal security complications poses greater threats especially when these are accentuated by hostile states. Many nations, like Yugoslavia, Sudan, Congo etc. have succumbed to them and many, like Yemen are facing survival threat.

Political destabilizations, violent internal conflicts, legitimacy crisis etc are some of the internal security threats to which South Asia is not an outlier. These have disintegrated nations like Pakistan in 1971 and some have been able to return from the brink like in Sri Lanka but all continue to face challenges.

What are different components of internal security and challenges faced by India?

If we define security as the maintaining territorial integrity and keeping peace and harmony within, than internal security automatically presupposes:

• The feeling of nationalism, brotherhood among all citizens because without these maintenance of integrity will be difficult. In the absence of this there are always chances of nation breaking into pieces.

•  Respect for laws, policies and institutions among the people and the capacity of the state to earn respect through policies which promote inclusive growth, ensure justice, equity and participation.

• Capabilities of the organs of the state like police, security forces, judiciary to keep faith of people intact, earn legitimacy and respond to the new emerging challenges like organized crime,

In spite of the efforts by the constitution makers to provide independent and credible institutions, political mechanism to tackle any kind of internal security problems India faces many of them:

• India is diverse and large country and in such situations differences are bound to arise. Many a times such differences are aggravated naturally and sometimes because of politics which create internal security challenges like communalism, Caste and ethnic violence etc.

• Sometimes unintended consequences of government policies or inefficiencies of governments may also create internal security challenges like left wing extremism, organized crime, illegal migration from Bangladesh etc.

• Other times the threats are posed by well organized crime syndicates whose main aim is just to run illegal, underground businesses but they attack the psyche of people eroding the credibility of state.

What is the role of media in internal security?

Media role in internal security can be analyzed from the prism of news, views and issues. How it presents them to the populace can help either in strengthening or weakening of the basics of internal security. In the globalized world it has to strike a balance between people's right to know on the one side and national security and social ethics on the other.

If we look from the perspective of issues media can play a very important role in improving internal security as it plays the role of information provider, information disseminator. It can mould the perception of both people and government, can lead to re-formulation of policies if they are wrong and can prevent negative outcomes which could have arisen.

Through its ground reporting it can warn of governments about the issues which can become security threat in future, like it can inform about the growing discontent in a particular area or group of people.

Role of Awareness Creation

·         It can disseminate information about the various programmes and policies that government has launched for vulnerable section and areas and thus creating a feeling of belongingness and thus creating a mass based shield against internal security threats.

·         It can educate people about the long term benefits of various initiatives by government as people many a times fail to see beyond what is visible immediately.

·         It can act a morale builder by showcasing the gains country has made in different spheres, economic, social, technological etc. and thus creating a sense of pride among people, various agencies. This sense of pride along helps in creating sense of nationalism, brotherhood if gains are equitably distributed.

·         It can help in countering propaganda and act as a tool to play information war. For example, it can counter the propaganda by Maoists, North-East insurgent groups by providing right facts and figures.

·         It can help in creating social cohesion by showing such programmes which shows inter-group cordial relations, rich history of peaceful Coexistence etc.

·         It can bring accountability among government institutions by highlighting lapses, atrocities committed by them or other lacunas in their operations. It helps in making institutions ready for any emergency situation

Regarding news reporting the media should know the difference between information, curiosity and the rumour. It has to strike a balance between giving instantaneous news and not acting as a tool in the hands of the anti-thetical elements by telecasting horrifying, gory images, live telecasting or divisive speeches. It should not act as an intelligence tool for terrorists by live telecasting operation details of security agencies.

How has Indian media played its role in internal security?

Media in India has played its role very responsibly most of the times, but it also has its share of lapses.

• It has helped in bringing out the correct information regarding issues of naxalism, the ineffectiveness of the policies pursued and thus helping in course correction. It has fought tooth and nail against policies like that of SalwaJudum, which might have long term repercussions on national integration.

• It has highlighted the issues of displacement, inequitable growth, rising inequalities, forcible acquisition of land and other resources etc, which if not handled may become security threats in long term.

•  Many a times it has brought out the reports of lapses in governments preparedness related to internal security and thus bringing accountability. In India media has played great role in highlighting the issues of human rights violation by security forces, absence of latest arms and technologies with police forces and thus creating a public opinion against such lapses.

• It has brought atrocities committed by security forces in light and course correction, which has helped in bringing people closer to governments as they feel that government care for them.

•  It has helped in building resilience against any kind of efforts by ISIS to spread roots in India by creating a popular opinion against it.

• It has helped by giving a space for the dis-heartened people to vent their anger. This alternative has helped in maintenance of law and order in great way.

But, in recent times because of proliferation of news channels and them pivalry with another for TRP instances of yellow journalism, dissemination of unverified news and one sided information by some unscrupulous news channels have emerged. Such actions of media have negative impact on long term internal security.

• The concept of breaking news have many a times detrimental effect on National Security.  Amplifying the fear factor through news reporting, live telecast of sensitive information are some of the concern areas here. For example, during the time of Mumbai terror attacks TV channels live telecasted operations by security forces. In recent Gurdaspur terrorist attack also same thing happened.

• The instances of playing too much with divisive issues, blowing news out of context have also surfaced in recent times. Seeking opinion of irresponsible individuals on sensitive issues may disrupt the social fabric of the country.

• This has also been aggravated by spread of social media which is taking the shape of public sourced media and also as a barometer of acceptance & popularity. This has made media houses dump objective reporting and playing to the tunes of masses who don't have knowledge of long term ill-effects of such things.

What should be done?

Media is an important tool of statecraft and ‘fourth pillar’ of democracy. Our constitution ensures freedom of speech and expression which also includes freedom of press. But, it should be kelp in mind that, this freedom must be exercised responsibly otherwise it can turn into a tool for creating disorder, confusion and mistrust. This in turn will bring media regulation by government in future, which will weaken the fourth pillar and democracy itself. The reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech must be treated as sacrosanct by media houses and must be self-adhered.

• The media houses must evolve their own code of ethics and self regulation mechanisms through which actions against those acting against the interest of the national security can be taken.

• Governments must also be proactive and must continuously provide immediate, accurate and reliable information so that public is not influenced by sensational and biased news reporting.

•  Media houses must also strengthen their local networks so that they can provide actual ground reports, can provide information in local languages because at present there exist a gap between local and national news which should be bridged.

•  With emergence of multiple sources of information the credibility of information is lost. This aspect must be taken care of because credibility is of paramount importance for media.


It is said that, media should do objective reporting without any objective but sometimes reporting with objective of strengthening of the National Integration can be carried. The example of role played by media in unification of Germany must be kept in mind and that should be the objective of the media, uniting the divided.

Verifying, please be patient.

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