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Police in India Use Facebook to Catch Dangerous Drivers

screenshot of delhi traffic police facebook pageAs India's middle class has swollen in recent years, so too has its share of untrained drivers. As a result, the country now endures more traffic-related fatalities than any other nation, and weaving through any of its major cities has become a feat of Herculean proportion. Police in Delhi, though, recently stumbled upon an entirely new approach to controlling the city's roadway pandemonium: Facebook.

Two months ago, traffic police officers in the dense metropolis began a Facebook page for their department. What began as a casual public forum, though, soon became a valuable source of information, as citizens spontaneously posted incriminating photos of misbehaving drivers. Since then, the page has accumulated close to 18,000 fans, countless photos of illegally parked cars, bike riders without helmets and drivers chatting on their cell phones, and plenty of arrests. According to the New York Times, Delhi police have issued 665 tickets by identifying license plates depicted in user photos, and officials claim that public feedback has, for the most part, been positive.

Some, on the other hand, have expressed concern over what they see as a potentially dangerous system. People could, of course, fabricate photos to pursue frivolous arrests, or to settle personal disputes. And the idea of using citizens as vigilante watchdogs certainly strikes an Orwellian chord with Gaurav Mitra, chief executive of the Delhi-based social business consultancy 2020 Social. "When you start using the Internet as [a] way for the government to keep tabs on its citizens, I start getting really worried, because you don't know where it will end," Mitra says.

The most dangerous threat we see, though, is the effect this page could have on India's fragile socioeconomic dynamics. Only one out of every four city-dwellers has access to the Web, and most of those few are in the wealthiest slice of the population. The middle class in India may be growing, but it's not growing fast enough to bridge the galaxies that separate the subcontinent's haves from its have-nots. True, this system arose organically, without any explicit requests or public demands from police. But that doesn't mean that law enforcement officials should tacitly condone a forum that might only exacerbate the tension in India's already bipolar social fabric. [From: New York Times]

Tags: BadDrivers, delhi, Driving, facebook, fatalities, India, law, laws, parking, photos, socialnetworking, top, Traffic, vigilante, VigilanteJustice, web