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‘Social media hub akin to surveillance state’

PTI New Delhi | Updated on July 13, 2018 Published on July 13, 2018

Apex court hits out at I&B Ministry’s plan for monitoring mechanism

The Supreme Court today took a strong 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”.

The top court said the government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages and sought its response within two weeks.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre 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,” the bench said.

Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Moitra, said the government has issued 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,” Singhvi said.

The bench then said it is listing the matter on August 3, before the opening of tender on August 20 and AG or any law officer for the government will assist the court in the matter. Earlier, on June 18, the 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.

The counsel for Moitra had said that the government is trying to monitor the social media contents 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 a software for the project.

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Published on July 13, 2018
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