The authorities in Kashmir have issued guidelines for social media users under Criminal Procedure Section 144 to contain the spread of content that is communally sensitive or promoting terrorism and secessionism.
"The guidelines aim to provide clarity on actions citizens should take when encountering content related to terrorism, secessionism, threats, intimidation, or communally sensitive material on social media platforms," the Baramulla district police said on Thursday.
Several other districts in Kashmir Valley have issued similar guidelines in the past week.
The guidelines come after director general of police RR Swain said that posting any content on social media that promotes disharmony will be a criminal offence in Jammu and Kashmir.
A new provision under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure will be introduced to this effect, Swain said in Jammu last week.
"Under (Section) 144 CrPC, we have decided to bring a law on the posting of any type of content -- message, video, audio -- which will instigate communal disharmony and terrorise or threaten anyone.
"Whether they are terrorists, separatists or anti-national elements, posting such messages and videos will be a crime as per the law," Swain said, adding the draft of the law will be placed in the public domain for feedback before it is enacted.
According to the guidelines, the citizens have been asked to contribute to maintaining a safe online environment and promptly report any suspicious activity.
"If you receive a message containing objectionable content then report it immediately to the nearest police station or police post with a screenshot and detailed information," the guidelines read.
The users have been advised to "recall messages promptly" in case they accidentally share inappropriate content.
"If not possible, issue a clarification to each contact or group it was shared with. Report the incident to the authorities as a precaution," it added.
In case of being part of any WhatsApp group frequented with messages or posts propagating terrorism, the police said the presumption will be against the individuals unless they opt out or report the group to the police.
"Staying in such a group may be seen as agreement and approval of its content," read the guidelines.
These guidelines also emphasize the importance of prompt reporting and responsible social media use to curb the spread of harmful content.
The authorities in some districts have also sought to regulate unregistered news portals and social media news accounts.
Kupwara district in north Kashmir was the first to issue such guidelines under Section 144 CrPC and warned of action under Section 188 IPC in case of violations.
Deputy commissioner Kupwara Ayushi Sudan last week directed all unregistered news portals to adhere to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code)
Rules or face action under the law.
The order requires all unregistered online news portals/social media news portals and their owners/publishers, publishing news and current affairs content from the entire jurisdiction of district Kupwara, to adhere to the Code of Ethics laid down in the appendix of the rules.
"The order shall come into force with immediate effect and any violation of this order shall invite punitive action under section 188 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, and other relevant sections of law in vogue," the order reads.
The order was issued based on a report prepared by the senior superintendent of police of Kupwara who had highlighted the mushrooming of unregistered online news portals/ social media pages reporting on news and current affairs which are publishing content without verification and accountability.