New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the centre over its decision to establish a social media communication hub under the ministry of information and broadcasting for monitoring activities on social media.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, which was hearing a public interest litigation moved by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Mahua Moitra seeking a stay on the establishment of the hub, directed the centre to file its reply within two weeks and also sought the assistance of the attorney general on the issue.
“If the government starts tapping WhatsApp messages, we will be moving towards becoming a surveillance state," justice Chandrachud said while expressing concern over the ramifications of such a move.
The ministry had in April issued a tender notice requesting proposals for providing software, service and support for the function, operation and maintenance of the social media communication hub in each district of the country.
“A technology platform is needed to collect digital media chatter from all core social media platforms, as well as digital platforms like news, blogs and forums along with a proprietary mobile insights platform in a single system providing real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data.The social media analytical tool should have a comprehensive analytics system to monitor and analyse various aspects of social media communication and World Wide Web," the tender notice read.
The analytical tool must have “listening and responding capabilities" with respect to “standard digital channels" such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, eMail, and blogs, the notice said.
The tool must also be capable of categorizing “social media sentiments" as positive, negative and neutral “as viewed/considered by the ministry of information and broadcasting" and help in understanding the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on various schemes run by the centre, it said.
The tender closes on 30 August.
The matter would be next heard on 3 August.