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Big Brother is now keeping watch on social media too

21 July, 2016 6:33 AM
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Responses on issues in Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are graded as positive, negative and neutral.

On July 19, when the Supreme Court asked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to apologise for his comments on the RSS, the two-year-old New Media Wing under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, described as the online eyes and ears of the Government came up with this finding: 44 per cent respond positively to the SC admonishing Rahul Gandhi.

The team also made the following observation: positive response (in favour of the SC and the RSS as well as against Mr. Gandhi), is 44 per cent. The responses are graded as positive, negative and neutral (posts which state things as they are).

Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube are the mining ground for information on which responses are graded as positive, negative and neutral, giving an insight to senior government officials on the mood in the social media on a daily basis. Sometimes, special requests are made by Ministries to understand the responses to new initiatives of the government.

The analysis, seen by The Hindu, has sparked off questions in the Ministry about whether the New Media Wing mines data for the BJP-led NDA Government or the BJP/RSS. Officials not wishing to come on record said there were no parameters drawn for analysis of social media trends as the Wing is relatively new. “The mandate of the Wing is not clear. We analyse trending topics and put it across to our seniors,” said an official.

In the last few days, topics that have been picked up on the basis of their traction on Twitter, Facebook, Google Hangouts and YouTube video posts have revolved around Mr. Gandhi, Navjot Singh Sidhu, gagging of the media in Jammu and Kashmir and the beginning of the monsoon session of Parliament, and the responses have been analysed by Oracle’s Social Relationship Manager tool and Meltwater and shared with senior officials in the I&B Ministry, PMO and concerned ministries and Intelligence agencies.

Top Influencers are listed in accordance with the followers they command on Twitter.

Director General of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) Frank Noronha directed this correspondent to speak to an official in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The New Media Wing and the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, (EMMC) together keep a watch online and on television channels.

The PIB sends press clippings every day to senior officials of the Government of India. At one place, the Wing which works with the Government to promote its activities even analyses the impact of an event on the BJP party —making it the first time, a government’s wing has associated its activity with a political party. Sample this: For resignation of Sidhu on July 18, the positive response in favour of (BJP and against Sidhu) is 34 per cent, negative is 17 cent and neutral is 49 per cent. Significantly, the neutral position has larger numbers than positive or negative responses.

On the other hand, the analysis titled, Social Media Analytics on newspaper seizure in parts of J&K, threw up the following results: three per cent respond positively; 28 per cent negatively and 69 per cent maintain neutral positions. Some officials in the PIB said the Government should have cautioned about the adverse fallout of gagging the media instead of allowing status quo for three days.


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