Surveillance state: SC flays bid to tap social media

Tracking and regulating social media content will transform us into a surveillance state, said the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday expressed serious concern over the Union government’s move to set up a social media communication hub to monitor online content. The top court said if the government wants to see every single tweet and WhatsApp message, it will be like "creating a surveillance state".

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought the government’s response within two weeks to a petition filed by TMC MLA Mahua Moitra.

The court also sought assistance from Attorney General K K Venugopal and put the matter for consideration on August 3, days before the government intended to open the bid for the social media communication hub.

Putting the government’s move under the scanner, the bench said, “Tracking and regulating social media content will transform us into a surveillance state.”

“The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state,” the bench further said.

Representing Mahua Moitra, an MLA from West Bengal’s Karimpur Legislative Assembly, senior advocate A M Singhvi submitted that the request for proposal has already been issued and the tender will be opened on August 20. “They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” he said.

The decision by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry is stated to “monitor and collect digital media chatter” from all core social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter “to give a positive slant” to news and discussions for India and inculcate “nationalistic feelings in the masses”.

The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a public sector undertaking under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply software for the project.

The petitioner claimed that the decision by the government will be a breach of privacy of an individual. Under the project, people, right up to the district level, will be monitored, she said.

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Surveillance state: SC flays bid to tap social media

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