Surveillance camera

The Narendra Modi government has decided to drop all plans to create a 'Social Media Communications Hub' after the Supreme Court called it akin to "creating a surveillance state."

A few weeks ago, the top court had made the comment when the Centre approached it with the plan to create a centre that would monitor all online data, as a preventive measure. However, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra raised a plea in the court to deny permission.

His plea was heard by CJi Dipak Mishra, along with Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. The plea observed that: "The government wants to tap citizens' WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state."  

The hub was envisioned as a system that would collect and analyse digital and social media content. The Centre even issued a tender for the project in January but had to abandon it after it failed to pick up enough bidders. A second tender was issued in April, with a deadline of August to submit bids.

The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), which is a Public Sector Undertaking, has also floated a tender to supply the software for the project. Its tender read: "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."

The government had planned to employ media persons on a contractual basis to be the eyes and ears of the government and provide real-time updates from the ground. This along with automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows through the software would have allowed the Centre to initiate engagement and monitor all digital channels.

The tender goes on to add that the platform will also be used to disseminate content, so any software would need to support publishing features as well. It also added that the "platform needs to power a real-time New Media Command Room."