SC:"The government wants to tap citizens' WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state,".

Date :13/07/2018

 

Supreme Court issues notice to Union government on a plea against the project to track "digital media chatter from all core social media platforms"

 
 
The Supreme Court on Friday took a solid note of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry's decision to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data, observing that it will be "like creating a surveillance state."
 
 
A seat of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued a notice to the Center on a supplication by Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Mahua Moitra and sought Attorney General K Venugopal's assistance in the matter.
 
"The government wants to tap citizens' WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state," the bench said. 
 
senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Moitra, said the government has issued request for proposals and the tender will be opened on August 20.
 
“They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” Singhvi said.
 
Ms. Moitra claims that the proposal damages her crucial rights ensured under Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution, fighting that it is a "shameless endeavor at mass reconnaissance". She also asserts that the whole exercise is targetdat “targeting voices which are critical of the government”.
 
On August 24 a year ago, a nine-judge bench of the Apex Court proclaimed that privacy is a constitutional right. The judges were consistent in their finding. In their order, the judges referred to different explanations behind their decision and stated:
 
"The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution."
 
On the other hand
 
A 360° assessment of the social media movements of general public is tried to be conducted at a district level by this hub. Socil media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so forth are tried to be followed to distinguish the "buzz makers" and social media influencers. The observing of social media activity will be utilized for sorting people as 'positive', 'negative' et al in light of the content shared or put out.
 
Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a public sector Undertaking (PSU) under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply 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.
 
The bench then said it is posting the issue on August 3, preceding the opening of tender on August 20 and the AG or any law officer for the government will help the court in the issue.
 
Prior, on June 18, the apex court had declined to accord urgent hearing on the plea trying to stay a central government move to set up a 'Social Media Communication Hub' that would gather and examine digital and social media content.
 
"The platform maybe 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," according to the tender document.
 
It should also help the ministry to understand the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on Centre-run schemes, it says.
 
 
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