SC Says Social Media Hub Would Create 'Surveillance State', Seeks Centre's Response

A plea said the government, through the hub, wants to tap citizens's WhatsApp messages and the Court sought the government's response within two weeks. 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today took 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 that the government wants to tap citizens’s WhatsApp messages and sought the government’s response within two weeks.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud issued a notice to the Centre on a plea by Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Mahua Moitra, seeking attorney general K.K. Venugopal’s assistance in the matter.

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

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

The bench said that it is listing the matter on August 3, before the opening of the tender on August 20 and the attorney general 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 the 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, as well as their e-mails.

Recently, 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.