New Delhi: In response to the I&B ministry’ decision to set up a social media hub to monitor online data the Supreme Court said the government wanting to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages is “like creating a surveillance state”. The top court has sought the government’s response in the matter within two weeks.
In response to a plea by Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Mahua Moitra, the apex court issued a notice to the Centre 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,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, who appeared for Moitra, said the government has issued a request for proposal and the tender will be opened on August 20. “They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” added Sanghvi.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on August 3.
On June 18, the Supreme Court had refused for an 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. The counsel for Moitra had said that the government is trying to monitor the social media content of individuals by tracking their social media accounts such as those on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and their e-mails.
Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply for the software of 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 said.
Under the project, media personnel will be hired on a contractual basis to provide real-time on ground information. According to the tender document, the platform is expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows to initiate engagement across digital channels.
“The platform may be used to disseminate content and hence, should support publishing features,” the document says, adding the platform needs to power a real-time New Media Command Room,” the tender document said.
It should also help the ministry to understand the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on Centre-run schemes, it says.