After backlash, India's government retracts a plan to monitor citizens’ social media activities
- On 3 August, the central government told the
Supreme Courtthat it was withdrawing a tender for the establishment of a social mediacommunications hub.
- The proposal, released in April 2018, involved trawling social media websites and collecting of individuals’ data and messages.
- Last month, the Supreme Court said that this amounted to “surveillance”.
Some of the key activities of this media command centre, which was to comprise 20 social media professionals, included trawling of websites like Facebook and Instagram, the collection of individuals’ data and messages and their subsequent profiling.
In the simplest terms, it amounted to
As expected, there was significant backlash to the
In mid-July, the Supreme Court said that the monitoring of people’s social media activities would make India a “ surveillance state”. The notice came in response to a petition filed against the proposal by Mahua Moitra, an official from the Trinamool Congress party, who claimed that the proposal went against the fundamental right to privacy.
The notice had its intended impact. A few days ago, the Indian government did an about-turn on the social media strategy, deciding that it was wise to avoid skirting controversy in the build-up to national elections next year. On 3 August, the central government told the Supreme Court that it was withdrawing the proposal. However, it did say that it could review the scheme and come up with a modified proposal.
The government’s tentative disavowal of a controversial, potentially undemocratic scheme is a welcome move. This is the second time that it has withdrawn a plan this year. In February 2018, the government was forced to roll back an order that banned the trade and slaughter of cattle after the pain it caused to the livestock industry, especially in terms of exports.