The Supreme Court had some harsh words for the I&B Ministry’s social media monitoring tender on Friday, PTI reports. “The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages,” a bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud were quoted as saying. “It will be like creating a surveillance state.” The court issued a notice to the government, and the next hearing will be on August 3.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a veteran lawyer and a Rajya Sabha MP for the Congress, is representing the petitioner, Mahua Moitra, an MLA in West Bengal for the Trinamool Congress.
The Social Media Communication Hub
In May, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting posted a tender saying that it was going to set up a social media communications hub. The tender, which was first reported by Scroll.in, went on to say that the bidder must be able to monitor Twitter, Instagram, some blogs, and YouTube. It also said that the tool that is created for this purpose must keep track of key influencers and be able to archive and retrieve older conversations. And to top it all off, it will have to create a ‘360-degree’ view of everyone it tracks and create ‘personalized responses’.
The tender, faced criticism — and now legal action — for essentially wanting to put in place a comprehensive social media surveillance infrastructure. The project has been delayed multiple times due to a lack of sufficient bids. The next hearing on August 3 will come a little over two weeks before the bids for the tender are opened by the government.