The Supreme Court on Monday refused to accord an urgent hearing to a TMC MLA’s plea seeking to stay a central government move to set up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub’ that would collect and analyse digital and social media content.
A vacation bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Indu Malhotra asked advocate Nizam Pasha, appearing for Trinamool Congress (TMC) legislator Mahua Moitra, to either move a high court for urgent hearing or wait till the vacation is over.
However, Pasha said it was an urgent matter as the last date of submission of the tender form, issued by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, was on Sunday. “You move the high court or wait for the vacation to be over,” the bench said. Pasha said that the government is trying to monitor the social media contents of individuals by tracking their social media accounts such as those on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and their e-mails.
“This will be a breach of privacy of an individual. Under the project, people, right up to the district level, will be monitored,” he said. Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply a software for the project. “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 tender document says.
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 news trending in their areas, the source said. 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 platform maybe used to disseminate content and hence, should support publishing features,” the document says, adding that the platform needs to power a real-time New Media Command Room.
It should also help the ministry to understand the impact of various social media campaigns conducted on Centre-run schemes, it says.