The funny story of boy who duped UP police with a fake Twitter profile is also dangerous

What if the impersonator had more insidious agendas?

 |  3-minute read |   23-04-2018
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The age of social media and internet has been marked by incidents and events one would never have imagined — much less anticipated. For example, in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur, the former bastion of chief minister Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Singh Bisht), recently witnessed something both incredible and frightening (when you sit and think about its ramifications).

According to a Times of India report, a Twitter account by the name of Om Prakash Singh, the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police (DGP), started issuing official instructions online. While it might seem odd that a DGP would issue orders on Twitter, what is peculiar is that those orders were also followed. But what is alarming is that it was not the DGP’s account. It was, in fact, created by a student of class 10.

Here’s what happened.

The Twitter account in question would look authentic to a layperson. The now suspended account went by the handle OmPrakashDGP. And very confidently, the account ordered cops to act on a complaint where a man was duped of Rs 45,000. Not wanting to ignore a direct order from the DGP, the cops, of course, acted promptly.

fake-cop_042318032921.jpgPhoto: DailyO

But why did a teenager from UP decide to take the law into his hands? It was personal. The class 10 student’s elder brother was cheated of Rs 45,000 by a person identified as Sadiq Ansari of Maharajganj, who had taken Rs 45,000 from the boy's brother under the pretext of getting him a job in Dubai. Once the “order” arrived from the supposed DGP, the cops, who had until then failed to act upon the complaint that was previously filed, responded swiftly and even managed to recover Rs 30,000 from the criminals, promising to find and return the remaining amount soon.

Alas, the boy’s ploy was soon uncovered. Once the UP police realised that this was not the DGP’s actual account, the SSP of Gorakhpur alerted the former's office which found that no such directive was issued. A case was assigned to the cyber cell of the UP police that tracked down the account that was being operated from a phone in Maharajganj police station area of Gorakhpur. Their search revealed that it was being run by a teen.

Needless to say, the boy and his friends were detained for impersonating an officer of the law. They were let off with just a warning.

The DGP, as per reports, "forgave" the boys. “We took a reformative approach and let off both the school-going kids, as any action would have affected their future,” DGP OP Singh said.

The problem, however, goes beyond the incident. In the era of fake news, propaganda and misinformation, a clearer demarcation needs to be made on social media about what constitutes as a legitimate source of information and authority.

A variety of parody accounts exist on Twitter and Facebook that are not intended as purveyors of misinformation, but still end up becoming the source of fake news. Parody accounts of politicians, public figures and news channels that don’t make a clear effort to highlight their purpose need to be regulated. While Twitter, on its part, does try and make the difference apparent with verification ticks, it is often not enough for spotting the difference on a cluttered timeline.

A teenager impersonating a cop to influence the smoother working of law and order may seem almost ingenious. But the implications of his actions are dangerous, when you consider what could happen if a person with a more insidious agenda, instead of a determined teenager, decides to issue orders to police.

Also read: What hanging out with Hindi rappers taught me

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