Odisha govt and social media

Yesterday, I came across this news:

This kind of intrigued me. Over the last few months, I have questioned the intent of Odisha govt in pushing their agenda on social media. I have even called this as marketing gimmicks. Why is there an urgency for such outreach?

Let’s start with four basic questions.

1. What is the legal basis of the Social Media posts by Govt departments? Are they legally valid, enforceable?
2. Is there a policy to backup such Social Media posts?
3. What is the policy with respect to making those tweets/posts available to the public via RTI, and where can one read those?
4. What happens to other grievance redressal mechanism?

Let’s look at these questions one after another.

1. What is the legal basis of the Social Media posts by Govt departments? Are they legally valid, enforceable?

No. Social Media posts are not legally valid, nor enforceable. A few days back, there was a tweet floating that the CM has written a letter to the Ministry of Roads & Surface Transport asking them to incorporate signage written in Odia in Odisha. This was in response to a strong outrage against NHAI by Odia Twitterati.

Legality of Govt department social media posts is incontestable because they’re Govt bodies directly providing information to the people. (Eg: recent case of wrong RTI information on Railway supplies created a furore: what if it was a tweet/FB post and not an RTI response?)

Also since there is no legality, people in power can use it as propaganda tool and PR tool to their advantage. Sway public opinion & get away.

2. Is there a policy to backup such Social Media posts?

Why does backup matter? Few days ago we saw a worldwide Ransomware attack on vulnerable systems using tools created by the US spy agencies. Affected countries, via Kaspersky:

Barack Obama’s tweets being archived and made available as part of FISA in the US. Imagine just 3–4 of the Twitter accounts of Govt of Odisha being locked out that way. Yea, Twitter is a private organisation with its own security framewwork, but as illustrated by Rahul Gandhi’s account being taken over, one cannot outsource security to an outside agency as far as Govt work is concerned.

What if a Bhubaneswar Municipal Corp or the Commissionerate police account gets taken over? If the hackers post fake messages, or incite violence or cheat people into something, who will be responsible?

Every backup provides both the ability to do further analysis, but also crucially, a fallback if compromise of the account or accounts does happen.

3. What is the policy with respect to making those tweets/posts available to the public via RTI, and where can one read those?

Social media posts provide a vast swathe of information to the public, whether they be announcements, propaganda or just promotion of schemes. But without either a legal basis for them (as information) there is almost little possibility of it being used for archival purposes.

4. What happens to other grievance redressal mechanism?

I don’t need to discuss this much anyway.

So now the inevitable Questions:

Why isn’t the Govt taking it seriously enough?
So what can the Govt do to fix this or use it effectively?
Is the problem only specific to Social Media accounts?

Further reading:

My Blog Post

This post written just before the Odisha Panchayat elections 2017, I did a thorough analysis of major political parties and their Social Media Strategy. I was amazed to learn about BJD and Mr. Naveen Patnaik. Although the whole article is written with a digital marketing hat, it holds good for any layman’s understanding.

My Quora Post

This post details how the current government uses Social Media channels as a PR mouthpiece and marketing gimmick with specific instances.

My Medium Post

Here I have written about e-governance woes & how this is afflicting governance. It also points to how this Social Media push is getting executed for now. Think of it as an Government official. Over & above his official duties, now he is tasked with monitoring the Social Media channels 24/7/365! Is it possible without automation? without software? without dedicated resource?