To prepare for INTERNAL SECURITY for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about Social Media. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Economy syllabus (GS-III.). Social Media terms are important from Economy perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams. Even these topics are also highly linked with current affairs. Almost every question asked from them is related to current events. So, apart from standard textbooks, you should rely on newspapers and news analyses as well for these sections.


“The internet is the largest experiment involving anarchy in history. (…) It is a source for tremendous good and potentially dreadful evil, and we are only just beginning to witness its impact on the world stage.” – Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google and Jared Cohen, Director, Google Ideas.



  • Any communication channel through which any kind of information, news, entertainment, education, data, promotional messages etc. can be disseminated is called Media
  • Mass media refers to communication devices, which can be used to communicate and interact with a large number of audiences in different languages.
  • Social Media in recent times has become synonymous with Social Networking sites such as Facebook or Microblogging sites such as Twitter. However, very broadly 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.
  • The advent of social media is transforming the way in which people connect with each other and the manner in which information is shared and distributed. It is different from traditional media such as print, radio and television in two significant ways –
  • The amount of content that can be generated by the users themselves far exceeds the content generated by news/opinion makers.
  • Its “viral” ability for potential exponential spread of information by word of mouth and interlinking of the various social media platforms, thereby considerably reducing the control over spread of any such information.
  • 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.


According to the Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report, the highest concentrations of online security threats are on mass audience sites, including social media.


Characteristics of Social Media:

  • Participation: Social media encourages contributions and feedback from everyone who is interested. It blurs the line between media and audience.
  • Openness: Most social media services are open to feedback and participation. They encourage voting, comments and the sharing of information. There are rarely any barriers to accessing and making use of content, password-protected content is frowned on.
  • Conversation: Whereas traditional media is about “broadcast” (content transmitted or distributed to an audience) social media is better seen as a two-way conversation.
  • Community: Social media allows communities to form quickly and communicate effectively, sharing common interests.
  • Connectedness: Most kinds of social media thrive on their connectedness, making use of links to other sites, resources and people.


Role of Media in India:

For a country like India, the backbone of its democracy and the propagator of its national interests remains the access to information and expression:

  • Inform and educate people objectively, impartially and in an unbiased manner about security threats and challenges.
  • Unbiased reporting with the restraints of self-regulations.
  • Promotion of the principles of healthy democracy.
  • Respect for the Constitutional Provisions.
  • To build a bridge between people and governments at the national level.
  • Uphold fairness, justice, national unity and international cooperation.
  • Inform, educate, entertain, publicize and most importantly correct the excesses in any society.
  • Highlight the trouble spots in the society and press the government and public to devise suitable mechanisms to eliminate them.
  • Shape the perceptions of government, influence public opinion, promote democracy, good governance as well as influence peoples’ behavior and support people- oriented policies.

Some important principles to be followed by the media:

  • Impartiality and objectivity in reporting
  • Ensuring neutrality
  • No glorification of crime and violence
  • Special care in cases pertaining to women and children
  • Refrain from obscenity
  • Respect individual privacy
  • Should not endanger national security
  • Refrain from sensationalizing

Where Media is Misleading? – Threat to Internal Security

  • Indian media does not have a wider perspective of India’s national security issues.
  • Indian media is in no mood to apply brakes or observe self-restraint on its wayward and insensitive treatment of national security issues.
  • Indian TV anchors discussing national security issues do not have the political and strategic to discuss national security issues as their Western counter-parts do.
  • Indian TV debates on national security issues tend to cut out development of contrary views and perspectives by imposing commercial breaks, or go hectoring themselves.


Varients of Social Media:

Kaplan and Hoenlein in 2010 classified social media into six different types: collaborative projects, blogs and microblogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual game worlds, and virtual social worlds. Some common examples.


  1. Social Networking:
These are the most prominent platform of social media. It is an online service that enables its users to create virtual networks with likeminded people akin to social networks in real life. It often offers the facilities such as chat, instant messaging, photo sharing, updates, etc. Facebook with over 800 million users is one of the most well-known social networking sites.
Blogs: Blogs are descriptive content created and maintained by individual users and may contain text, photos and links to other websites. The main interactive feature of Blogs is the ability of readers to leave comments and the comment trail can be followed.
Microblogs: Microblogs are similar to Blogs with a typical restriction of 140 characters or less, which allows users to write and share content. It can be done in the form of text message, instant message or even email. Twitter is a microblogging site that enables its users to send and read text-based messages or “tweets” of up to 140-character length. These Tweets are posted on the user’s account and the site allows others to “Follow” the user.
Vlogs and Video Sharing sites: Videoblogs or Vlogs are blogging sites that mainly use video as the main form of content supported by text. Such sites especially enable those who may have limited knowledge of English to also share their experiences over the internet. Vlogs are an important category of content over YouTube – the largest video sharing site. YouTube is a video Live Casting and video sharing site where users can view, upload and share videos and even leave comments about videos.
Wikis: A Wiki is a collaborative website that allows multiple users to create and update pages on particular or interlinked subjects.
Photo Sharing: Picasa and Flickr – These are photo sharing sites.


National Security & Social Media:

Social Media can represent an effective opportunity to preserve national security and/or reach the strategic interests of a state if used properly by civil institutions and, in particular, by security services and/or information security services.


Negative Impact of Social Media Positive Impact of Social Media
Instigating Riots Social awareness
Spreading misinformation and disinformation Strengthening and deepening participatory democracy
Terrorism Cheapest and fastest form of communication
Anti-National activities Spread of Social activism
False opinion building Promoting cultural debates
Inciting communal violence Increase in creativity of general public as they are free


Social media supports security system also through:

  • Improved intelligence capabilities – social network offer real-time, firsthand information which can be used for developing “actionable intelligence” by using tools such as big data analysis etc.
  • Support investigation – It can be used for effective engagement and policing. It includes methods-using platforms like Twitter for supporting investigations and to find information on offenders, supporting investigations by crowd sourcing; using photo-sharing site such as Flickr to publish photos of perpetrators of riots captured on CCTV etc.
  • Maintaining Law and order – During London riots 2011, rioters used Smartphone apps etc. to organize attacks, find police locations etc. However, the police and public hit back by using the very same social media technologies to capture rioters and secure their communities. In the case of Boston Bombing, 2013, the police successfully leveraged Twitter to calm public nerves and request public assistance
  • Warning and Trend Prevision Tool– The ability to forestall future strategic and tactical contexts is of paramount importance in order to reduce the possibilities to be caught by surprise by threats and increase the resilience to them.
  • Influence, Propaganda and Deception Tool– The use of Social Media allows not only to communicate, share or capture information, analyze sociopolitical dynamics and anticipate economic-financial trend, but also to describe events, model reality, influence the perception of a certain situation, a specific issue or a person, and influence choices and behaviors.
  • Institutional Communication Tool

Security implications/ Threat to Internal Security:

Social media poses challenge for democracies because the channels such as social networks and blogs present powerful tools to spread information to the masses e.g. Moldavian twitter riot, the London riots, the Iran elections, the WikiLeaks disclosures, or the Arab freedom movements etc.

  • Terrorism: Social media helps terrorist organizations to spread their ideology and they use social media as a tool to brainwash the youth of a country which ultimately ends up as an anti-social element. Terrorists also use social media to disturb the social harmony of the country.
  • Instigating Riots: The sharing of hate speech or rumors on social media platforms have potential to cause a full- fledged Riot in the country.
  • Spreading of Disinformation and Misinformation: Any wrong information that gets viral over social media affects the knowledge of the people and erodes people’s trust over the institute or government body.
  • Inducement of panic in the public: Due to the viral nature of any rumor spreads like wildfire. If not quashed in time can cause panic among the people which can lead to rampage etc.
  • 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.
  • Criminality: As the Internet is growing explosively, online criminals try to present fraudulent plans in many ways. Social networking sites also pose a major challenge in financial and organized crime which destabilizes the system. It creates a threat to a company’s security because of what employees might disclose and they are on prime target for cyber criminals
  • Protest Movements and 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 e.g. Yellow movement, Jasmin revolution, Umbrella movement among others.
  • We are also witnessing the growth of the “new media phenomena” in India where traditional media (mainly television) is increasingly relying on social media to feed its 24-hour news cycles and picking content and coverage led by social media trends, posing multi- dimensional implications for law and order as well as security.
  • Hackers write or use ready-made computer programs to attack the target computer. By using Social Media, they 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
  • Easy and accessible propaganda platform: ISIS is using this medium for Propaganda propagation which is fueling competition among Terror Groups on Social Media for the same. It is also alleged that Bangladeshi terrorists were influenced by ‘hate speeches’ available online.
  • Other implications can be cyberbullying or cybercrime discussed in cyber security section.


Recent Internal Security Crisis engendered by Social Media:

  • Mobile and social network interfaces were used to send offensive clips and hate messages that triggered panic and mass exodus of north east Indians from large parts of India in the aftermath of the ethnic clashes in Assam in 2012.
  • In 2013, a morphed video on YouTube was used to fan communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh
  • A propaganda video released by ISIS shows alleged Indian Jihadists fighting in Syria and calling for more Indian recruits to join the cause.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) annual report used a picture of the Spain-Morocco border to show Indian border floodlighting.
  • Child kidnapping rumours lead to lynching by a mob in Jharkhand.
  • In the recent Karnataka Assembly elections (2018) fake news about rival parties and candidates flooded the media.
  • The Supreme Court of India on the reckless media coverage of the 26/11 attacks noted that – “By covering the attack live, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary, they were acting in their own commercial interests, putting national security in jeopardy.

Other issues with using social media:

  • Legal challenges such as Internet traffic monitoring and privacy Concerns, fears of censorship and threat to freedom of speech and expression.
  • Accountability issues – Challenges with respect to fixing the liability of intermediaries.  Jurisdictional challenges – Complications in jurisdiction as Facebook etc. operate as subsidiaries of foreign internet companies with their servers located outside India.
  • Anonymity – Police officers have expressed concern over multiplicity of fake profiles

Challenges for adapting social media into Policing:

  • Lack of clarity on how to use the technology
  • Absence of adequate internet infrastructure
  • Lack of immediate availability of talent,
  • Shortage of personnel and soft skills required to deal with a medium like social media at local levels
  • Multiplicity of languages in India require further customization of technology which, in turn, requires investment, both human and capital as well as redrawing of budget plans.

Use of social media in Policing:

  • Delhi Traffic Police using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to ease handling of traffic related issues, Delhi police online FIR facility for lost articles,
  • Indore police using the medium to track criminal activity
  • Bengaluru police twitter handle selected for “Twitter Samvad”.
  • Social Media Labs Project by Maharashtra Police tracks activity on social media to anticipate and handle sudden flare ups.
  • Extensive use of twitter in recent Kerala floods (2018)


Legal provisions:

  • The IT act of 2002 (amended in 2008) section 69 and 69A provides the Government with power to issue directions for interception/monitoring of any information through any computer resource and block it, in interest of sovereignty or integrity of India.
  • Relevant sections of IPC and CrPc are also applicable other laws dealing with cyberspace is discussed in chapter of cyber security.


Measures to deal with security implications:

  • Centralized monitoring system: Complete 24*7 monitoring systems can take better timely action over the viral post and can prevent unnecessary panic among the people.
  • Intelligence and information gathering: Better data collection can lead to better policy formulation and upgraded intelligence mechanisms can be used to prevent the chaos in the general public.
  • National social media policy: After seeing the various fronts of social media our country needs this policy to make these social networking sites more responsible and overall good towards society.


Overall, the government along with NGOs and civil society and literacy try to establish a balance between the negatives and positives of social media.


Need for regulation of Social Media

  • Exponential increase- in social media profiles on the platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook etc.
  • Quick spread of information- If some event happens in one part of the world, its information or disinformation can be spread in minutes, which can create chaos or panic.
  • Disparity of information available- Owing to the limited knowledge about the source of news and fact check mechanisms.
  • To curb illegal activities- such as spread of fake news, pornographic and anti-national content, among other things.
  • Ensure violence does not take place- such as against religious and ethnic groups. E.g. Muzaffarnagar riots.


Arguments against regulation:

  • Unconstitutional Move- as it is against the Right to Privacy interpreted by the court under the Constitution and also against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s Putt swamy privacy judgment. It can violate the individual’s fundamental rights, dignity and personal information.
  • Could lead to commercial use of Aadhaar- as it would result in users’ messages and posts being traceable, which can be used to target profiles by different stakeholders.
  • Data Collection will increase as Aadhaar is tied across databases including driving licence and vehicular registration, PAN, social security benefits etc. When this information is collated with Aadhaar, it can lead to a 360-degree profile of an individual. This can be misused or tracked by various companies and applications.
  • Will disempower some sections- which have been empowered by the anonymity of social media such as- Women- have used anonymity to correct systemic and historic sexual harassment through the MeToo movement.
  • Caste Groups- have used it to highlight how certain institutions, particularly those that offer education and health services, have discriminated against them. Prone to misuse- the experts believe this could also allow the government to use social media platforms as surveillance tools.
  • Wrong to link some issues with social media- g. Fake news is not an invention of digital age, rather has been present since long. These issues have not much to do with these platforms themselves.


Social Media and Deepening of Democracy:

  • Aiding C-Governance:Social media has led to the emergence of citizen-led governance (C–governance) in India. Social media platforms help to create awareness from one another to a million and be united for any social cause. In the process, the existence of social media can nudge citizens to seek solutions. Social media is gradually being accepted as the fifth estate of democracy.
  • Democratization of Expression:Social media has made Indian politics more inclusive by allowing citizens, who were traditionally excluded from politics due to geography and demography, to gain direct entry into the political process.
  • Instrument for Bringing Behavioural Change:Use of social media for policy crowdsourcing and publicity is evident in the success of pan-India campaigns such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the recently-launched Fit India Movement.
  • Making political communication people-centric:Social media has been increasingly used by Indian political actors for routine political communication between elections to provide unmediated and direct communication to connect citizenry.


Detrimental effects of Social Media on Democracy:

  • Widening Social Fault Lines:Social media has enabled a style of populist politics, which on the negative side allows hate speech and extreme speech to thrive in digital spaces that are unregulated, particularly in regional languages.
  • Formation of Information Cocoons:Social Media, due to its technological capacity has enabled self-sorting and personalization of information one perceives. This leads to the phenomenon of group polarization. This is not in sync with the ethos of democracy which is based on Debate, Dissent And Discussion.
  • Menace of Fake News:The rise of polarizing and divisive content has been a defining moment of modern politics, which is fed by fake news propagation through social media channels.
  • Cyberbullying or Trolling:Another dangerous element is the labelling and trolling of more rational voices or those who disagreed with the government’s actions or dominant public discourse as “anti-national.”


Previous Years UPSC Questions:

  • What are social networking sites and what security implications do these sites present? (2013)
  • “The diverse nature of India as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society is not immune to the impact of radicalism which is seen in her neighborhood? Discuss along with strategies to be adopted to counter this environment. (2014)
  • Religious indoctrination via social media has resulted in Indian youth joining the ISIS. What is ISIS and its mission? How can ISIS be dangerous to the internal security of our country? (2015) 4. Use of internet and social media by non-state actors for subversive activities is a major security concern. How have these been misused in the recent past? Suggest effective guidelines to curb the above threat. (2016)
  • Mob violence is emerging as a serious law and order problem in India. By giving suitable examples, analyze the causes and consequences of such violence. (2017)




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