We’re not a surveillance state: SC

If the government seeks to monitor every social media message, the country will become a surveillance state, the Supreme Court said on Friday.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who is a member of the Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, made the oral observation, about the Central government’s proposal to create a hub to track social media trends.

The Bench was hearing a petition filed by Mahua Moitra, a Trinamool Congress legislator, who alleged that the proposal for a “social media communication hub” by the Centre is a “brazen attempt at mass surveillance.”

Ms. Moitra said popular social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, would be tracked to identify the “buzz creators” and social media influencers.

“The proposed Social Media Communication Hub seeks to create a technology architecture that merges mass surveillance with a capacity for disinformation,” Ms. Moitra, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi and advocate Mohammad Nizam Pasha, argued.

The petition said the aim of the hub is to create a technology platform “to collect digital media chatter from all core Social Media Platforms as well as digital platforms.”

It said the hub would operate on a software having the “ability to trawl social media and World Wide Web for data mining.”

The Broadcasting Engineering Consultants India Limited, a Public Sector Undertaking, has invited bids and proposals for choosing an agency to set up the hub. The tender closes by August 20. The court fixed the hearing for August 3 and asked the Attorney-General of India to be present.

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