Centre scraps plan to set up Social media hub, SC told (Lead)
New Delhi : The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it has abandoned its plan to set up a Social Media Communication Hub (SMCH) to track and monitor these platforms to identify "buzz creators".
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal informed a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the government is withdrawing the proposal. Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y.Chandrachud were the other members of the bench.
The Centre's response came on a petition by Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra for stalling the Information and Broadcasting Ministry's move to keep a tab on social media platforms.
After the AG told the bench that the government was withdrawing the notification, the court disposed of the petition.
In the last hearing on July 13, Justice Chandrachud had said, "If every tweet, WhatsApp (message) is monitored, we'll be moving towards a surveillance state."
Petitioner Moitra had sought to block the request for proposal (RFP) inviting bids "for the supply, installation, testing and commissioning (SITC) of software for the hub.
The bids were to open on August 20.
The petitioner had told the court that the proposed hub violates her fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
"Such intrusive action on the part of the government is not only without the authority of law, but brazenly infringes on my fundamental right to freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution," Moitra had contended.
She had asserted that such monitoring also violates her fundamental right to privacy.
The PIL had said that "the platform is expected to provide automated reports" and in addition to it manually by a "team of 20 social media analytics executives", subject to a minimum of six reports per day, "on sentiment, reach, details related to trending about topics and hash tags as instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting".
In all, 716 social media executives for the 716 districts (one executive for one district) in the country were provided under the plan, expected to create "daily analysis reports incorporating local sentiment to be sent to ADG (region) and Media Hub (Command Centre)".