SC issues notice to centre, says, SMC will create a surveillance state

The has now issued notice to the Centre over its decision to establish a communication hub under the ministry of information and broadcasting for monitoring activities on . The Supreme Court said if the government starts tapping messages, the country would move towards becoming a surveillance state and sought its response within two weeks.

   SC issues notice to centre, says, SMC will create a surveillance state

The came up with the plan to set up a “”. The would help it keep a tab on trending news in districts and gather feedback on the Centre’s flagship schemes.

Under the project, media persons would be employed on contractual basis in each district to be the “eyes and ears” of the government and provide real-time updates from the ground. They would also take the people’s feedback on the government’s policies and follow the trending news in their areas. Experts would also be employed at the central level to analyze the feedback.

The finance committee has sanctioned 17 crore Rupees for this fiscal year for setting up 707 hubs, hiring personnel, development of software and other infrastructure related expenses.

Around 20 social media analytics executives per hub will provide ‘reports on sentiment, reach, details relating to trending topics and hashtags and compile six reports per day’ to begin with. As part of the project, new software will be developed for the hubs that will enable two-way communication and help disseminate information.

This software would collect digital media chatter from all core social media platforms as well as digital platforms such as news, blogs etc. in a single system providing real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data. This platform is also expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows to initiate engagement across digital channels. The platform will be used to disseminate content and hence, should support publishing features.

Apart from all this, the Social Media Communication Hub is also seen to have some negative impacts as it would gather personal data from social media and emails, the creation of “360-degree profiles” of social media, “influencers”, generating and preparing reports, cataloguing and then storing all of this in a knowledge management database.

If this is not enough the “Social Media Communication Hub” will also have the ability to broadcast content without any legal authority or guidance through 20 central and 716 district level social media executives. In sum, this is a system of control through surveillance and a capacity to spread propaganda.

It is also been seen as a tool to conduct surveillance of individuals and spread disinformation, which violate our fundamental rights to privacy and free speech.

The (), rose to prominence in 2015 for their SavetheInternet campaign urging the protection of .

As a whole, this hub is seen as problematic and it has the following concerns:

  • Monitoring of Social Media
  • Predictive and Sentiment Analysis
  • Automated and Manual Reports
  • Knowledge Management System and Private Data Centre
  • Response Management

The IFF also believes that the government’s project would result in constitutional and legal violations as :

  • It has no legal basis
  • It constitutes mass surveillance
  • Profiling
  • It has chilling effect on  
  • It has no safeguards 

The Supreme Court has thus 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. The Supreme Court said if the government starts tapping WhatsApp messages, the country would move towards becoming a surveillance state and sought its response within two weeks.

CREDITS:
Written by-  Jaspreet Kaur
                     Amity Law School

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