SC links UIDAI’s social media monitoring plan to surveillance state

UIDAI

The Supreme Court (SC) has once again expressed its concern over social media monitoring by the government. This time, it has demanded an explanation over UIDAI’s plan to create a social media wing to counter “negative sentiments” on Aadhaar.

In July this year, the UIDAI introduced a tender to create a social media wing. It has been claimed the request for proposal (RFP) has sought offers from those who can “identify problematic online conversations” and “neutralise negative sentiments”.

The SC likened it to the idea of surveillance state.  “You are trying to do indirectly what we told you cannot do directly,” a top court bench, comprising CJI Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed.

The court has demands an explanation from Attorney General K K Venugopal on the UIDAI request for proposal. The court will hear the case again on September 11.

In May this year, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting invited bids for social media monitoring systems – a tool that will track tweets, posts and content shared from anywhere in India.

Experts likened the tool to surveillance programmes like China’s censorship platform or the American National Security Agency’s infamous snooping tool called PRISM.

The SC then observed that blanket monitoring of social media by the government would result in a surveillance state. It also sought the Centre’s response to a PIL challenging the proposal to create a Social Media Communication Hub (SMCH) on the ground that it was meant to snoop on citizens.

The government later withdrew the proposal for setting up a ‘Social Media Communication Hub.

The development was first reported by ET.

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