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UIDAI’s Social Media Agency: Centre willing to accommodate recommendations, AG Venugopal

Shruti Mahajan

In the case against the UIDAI’s bid to set up a Social Media Agency, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court today that the Centre is willing to accommodate recommendations made.

The petition filed by Trinamool Congress MLA Mohua Moitra challenging the proposed move of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to monitor social media was heard by the Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.

Earlier, the Government of India had sought to set up a similar social media hub to carry out 360-degree monitoring of social media. The same was challenged by the petitioner in the instant case, before the Request for Proposal (RFP) was withdrawn.

Subsequently, the UIDAI sought to set up a similar body, and the same has now come under challenge.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the petitioners, told the Court that Centre had made some “cosmetic changes” in the corrigendum, but the plan remained by and large the same.

AG Venugopal submitted before the Court today that the Centre is willing to accommodate the suggestions made.

The Court, therefore, directed the Centre to file a detailed affidavit in that regard and decided to take up the matter again next week.

Last month, the Central government withdrew its proposal to set up a social media hub, after it had invited bids and proposals for selection of an agency.

The proposal had envisaged a 360° evaluation of social media movements of the public at a district level. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc were sought to be tracked to identify the “buzz creators” and social media influencers.

The monitoring of social media activity could then have been used for categorising individuals as ‘positive’, ‘negative’ et al based on the content shared or put out.

While hearing the petition, Justice Chandrachud had earlier observed that if the government was seeking to monitor every single tweet and WhatsApp message that is sent, “we’ll be moving towards becoming a surveillance state”.

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