In a bid to crackdown on the widespread menace of fake news and rumour mongering in Telugu states, Andhra and Telangana police stepped up action against people who are sending unconfirmed information through social media.
For the past few months, a fake message has been doing the rounds that a "Pardhi gang", a notorious group, have entered Telugu states with the intention of kidnapping children.
The fake news has created panic in many districts with several incidents of people being attacked on the suspicion that they belong to the Pardhi gang.
In the first week of May, a mentally ill man was attacked in Kadapa on the suspicion of being a member of the gang, while in Nandigama of Krishna district, a migrant labourer was attacked for similar suspicions on Monday.
But the police have actively stepped up to curb the fake messages. In the second week of May, three juveniles were arrested by the Nandya police for spreading fake news on social media that the notorious gang was kidnapping children, extracting their brains and eating them.
On Monday, the Ongole sub-division police arrested two persons for spreading fear in public by posting fake news on the Pardhi gang on social media.
Krishna district officials have also filed cases against miscreants circulating unsubstantiated rumours on social media causing law and order issues.
Police across districts have gone on to issue a clarification that there is no movement of any such group and people should not believe in any such rumours.
East Godavari SP Vishal Gunni released a video urging people to prevent the spreading of fake information and asked people not to fall prey to everything they read on social media.
"Please don't believe such rumours, our policing is very alert. There is no such group that has come from Bihar. Don't take law into your hands, if you have any real information please pass it on to 100 or the WhatsApp helpline," the video elaborates.
In the wake of the fake news menace, Telangna's Gadwal police have also started a counter campaign to tackle fake news.
A detailed report by TNM about similar fake news triggering panic and unrest in neighbouring Telangana has revealed that the messages are of three types.
While one refers to an interstate gang of thieves, another mentions a gang that is kidnapping children. The third kind involves communally sensitive messages that are in Hindi.
Earlier, Jogulamba Gadwal SP Rema Rajeshwari told TNM that while Telugu and Kannada messages are apparently surfacing from Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district and other border areas, the communally sensitive messages in Hindi are apparently coming from north India.
The Gadwal police are campaigning against fake news through community outreach programme.