July 13, 2018:
On Friday, Supreme Court took a strong note of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to set up a Social Media hub for monitoring online data.
SC Bench comprising of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dy Chandrachud stated that it would be “like creating a surveillance state”.
Apex Court stated that the Government wanted to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages and sought its response within two weeks.
SC Bench issued notice to the Central Government on a plea by Trinamool Congress (TMC) Legislator Mahua Moitra and sought Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s assistance in the matter.
“The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state,” stated SC Bench.
Senior Advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for Mr. Moitra, stated that Government had issued a request for proposal and the tender would be opened on August 20.
He added that,“They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub”.
SC Bench then stated that it was listing the matter on August 3.
On June 18, Apex Court had refused to accord urgent hearing on the plea seeking to stay a central government move to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ that would collect and analyse digital and social media content.
Recently, Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry, floated a tender to supply a software for the project.
“A technology platform is needed to collect digital media chatter from all core social media platforms as well as digital platforms such as news, blogs… In a single system providing real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data,” the tender document says.
Under the project, Media persons would be employed on contractual basis in each district to be the “eyes and ears” of the government and provide real-time updates from the ground.
The tender document says the platform is expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows to initiate engagement across digital channels.