HRD directive to link students' social media accounts to ministry is worrying
A recent directive issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development(HRD) wants the social media accounts of all higher education students to be connected with that of the institutes and the Ministry.
An order issued by Higher Education Secretary R Subrahmanyam on July 3rd on plans to connect the social media accounts of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in India and the students to the Ministry’s social media accounts has sparked concern that it was a surreptitious move to monitor students' social media activity.
The letter specifically asks to “connect all the student’s Twitter/Facebook/Instagram account” with the HRD ministry.
Experts say the move is worrying and it amounts to surveillance of students.
The directive issued by the Ministry however claims that the purpose of the move is to “publicise at least one positive story by the institution or a student every week so that stakeholders can learn from the exchange on social media platforms.”
“This is a worrying move by the MHRD on at least two counts. First, it is unclear how "connecting" students' social media accounts to the MHRD's social media accounts will enable the supposed goal of highlighting the achievements of the institution. Instead, it seems like an attempt at surveillance of students through their social media postings, which is very worrying,” Pranesh Prakash, Policy director, Centre for Internet and Society told Asiaville.
Concern has also been raised over privacy because of the foreign nature of the social media platforms mentioned in the directive.
“Second, it is unfortunate that the government is encouraging the use of three proprietary foreign social networks which goes against the spirit of the National Open Source Policy,” Pranesh Prakash added.
Faculty members are also worried as they see the step as a move to curtail freedom of expression.
“We all are worried but there has been no studied response to it yet. Campuses are supposed to be spaces where people express themselves freely. This move aims to monitor the views of the students and all stake holders in the academic fraternity,” a Delhi University college professor told Asiaville.
The letter issued by the ministry says that the initiative in each college will be piloted by an employee who would be designated ‘social media champion (SMC)’.