Home, IB ministry jostle to control social media

Both ministries want to make first foray into the field as a natural authority for handling and dissemination of all official information

New Delhi : The Home Ministry has jumped in to have control over the New Media Cell, a favourite initiative of Prime Minister Modi to establish the government’s social media interface.

It is trying to dislodge the Information and Broadcasting Ministry making the first foray into the field as a natural authority for handling and dissemination of all official information.

The ministries, which were banking on the expertise from I&B Ministry to handle their social media networks, have started outsourcing the work. The first to advertise for hiring the agency is the Ministry of Women and Child Development

A Committee of Secretaries, headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, has favoured the Home Ministry’s claim for better synergy, agreeing with it that the I&B Ministry is not equipped to the crisis situations when the social media becomes an important tool in interface with the citizens whose presence is more on Internet sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar was enthusiastically activating the Press Information Bureau (PIB) under him to guide various ministries in increasing their presence on the social media, but those drafted for the purpose may have to play a second fiddle to the Home Ministry.

Those on the Internet networks say this is an attempt of the Home Ministry for censorship of the social media if it has the functional control, though it will learn ultimately how impossible it is to adopt the same tactics on the social media that are used to control the regular media.

Sources say the Home Ministry is even trying to snatch the functional control of the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre from I&B Ministry. The centre keeps track of the TV and radio news by the Indian and foreign stations round-the-clock and provides feedback to the government. The Home Ministry has claimed that it is better placed to handle security and crisis situations with quick actions that the I&B Ministry cannot deal.

Meanwhile, the ministries that were banking on the help from the I&B Ministry to handle their social media networks through the public relations officers of PIB are contemplating to outsource the social media work, pointing out that they do not have the expertise needed in the new media world.

The first to jump in to outsource the job is the Ministry of Women and Child Development that has already floated a tender to hire a ‘social network management agency’ to manage its Twitter and Facebook handles and generate awareness on the ministry-related issues.

The eligibility criteria laid down is that the agency must have five years’ experience in the field, proven track record of managing a social networking platform with at least 2.5 lakh followers or people liking the content, and have the in-house facilities for production and editing of all contents, including high-definition video, and research.

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