The Supreme Court on Thursday took note of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to set up a social media hub to monitor online data, observing that it will be “like creating a surveillance state”, PTI reported. The court has sought the government’s response within two weeks.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by Trinamool Congress legislator Mahua Moitra and sought Attorney General KK Venugopal’s assistance in the matter.

“The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages,” the bench said. “It will be like creating a surveillance state.”

Senior advocate AM Singhvi, who was appearing for Moitra, said the government has issued a request for a proposal and the tender will be opened on August 20. “They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” Singhvi said.

The bench listed the matter next for August 3, before the opening of tender on August 20. The attorney general or any law officer for the government will assist the court in the matter.

On June 18, the Supreme Court refused to grant an urgent hearing to the plea filed by Moitra seeking a stay order on the Centre’s move to set up a social media communication hub.

The government hopes to deploy a “social media analytical tool” that will create digital profiles of citizens, ostensibly to gauge their opinions about official policies, according to a bid document issued in April by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The government hopes to use this information to target individuals with personalised campaigns to promote “positive” opinions and to neutralise “negative sentiments” about government schemes.