A recent order from the HRD Ministry which asks institutions to connect social media accounts of students with that of the institutes’ drew the attention of students and teachers who fear that the accounts might be used for targeting people with contrary political views.

The order that was issued the last week by Higher Education Secretary R Subrahmanyam introduced a mechanism seeking to “connect all students’ Twitter/Facebook/Instagram account” with social media accounts of higher education institutions as well as the HRD ministry. The ministry, however, hasn’t specified as to how the accounts will be linked and how is it going to affect the students.

“Social Media is what I use for myself and it shouldn’t be connected with my institution in any way. I don’t find this right at all. Social media is a platform where we express our opinions independently.”

“Social Media is what I use for myself and it shouldn’t be connected with my institution in any way. I don’t find this right at all. Social media is a platform where we express our opinions independently. Even if the ministry says that it is not compulsory for us to connect our social accounts, if it comes to the reputation of the institution, there’s no guarantee that it would not be made compulsory for us.” says Sharmishtha Mishra, a BSc Student from Zakir Hussain College, Delhi.

The letter issued by the ministry claims that this attempt will attract one positive story from each institution once a week. This will allow stakeholders to learn from the social media activity of the institutions. However, some students and teachers are sceptical regarding the use of personal information that will be collected. One social media champion will be designated in each institution and he will further control the social media activity, and sharing of information from his institution with the ministry. An official from the ministry, however, says the order is “voluntary” and does not make it mandatory upon students to share their social media details with the institute.

“It is to share good practices and motivate each other by best performances. It is not compulsory. They need not share if they don’t want to.”

Explaining the objective, the HRD official said, “It is to share good practices and motivate each other by best performances. It is not compulsory. They need not share if they don’t want to. “This kind of connecting social media handles is wrought with a number of practical challenges. It will lead to more monitoring of our own academia. Secondly, if created, it will lead to more collection of data, and profiling will become easier. You may be vulnerable to targeting if views are not in sync with the government,” Dr Pavan Duggal, an advocate who specialises in cyber law told News 18 Media.

“Frankly speaking, we do not prefer adding our teachers in our friend list, for many of our views might not go in accordance with theirs. This leaves an impact on how they perceive us. Now if I share my social information with the institution, I’m bound to not share views or opinions or even funny content that might be negative for my teachers. According to me, this is not the right step. We already share our email id and hence there’s no reason for us to share our social media accounts.” says Ayush Verma, a BSc graduate from PPN Degree College.

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