On Friday, the Supreme Court took a strong note of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data and said that it will be like creating a surveillance state. The apex court said that the government wanted to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages and sought its response within two weeks. A noticed was issued to the Central government on a plea by Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Mahua Moitra by a bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud.
The bench 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,” it said. Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry, floated a tender to supply a software for the project.
The document said that 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.
What is social media hub?
The social media hub proposed by the I&B ministry is expected to provide real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data to the Government. This information would help the government in formulating policies, schemes or rectify any flaws in their implementation at the ground level so that the ultimate beneficiary who is the common man is benefited and has a direct way to communicate any complaints regarding the same to the Government.
“The tool should act as the guiding tool for Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to understand the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on various schemes run by the Government of India. In addition, the tool should have the capacity to provide inputs to the Ministry on how to improve the reach of various social media campaigns, how to make a particular topic trending and for the overall general improvement of social media campaigns,” the proposal by I&B ministry read.
How will it work?
The ministry had proposed to hire people including local journalists and stringers, on a contractual basis for this project. The government plans to utilise the services of those employed to be its “eyes and ears” to directly receive feedback from the ground on its schemes.
The hub would help the government to understand the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on Centre run schemes. The tender document says the platform is expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows to initiate engagement across digital channels.
The government plans to make this hub available in English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Punjabi.