The Indian government has ordered Google and Apple to take down the Chinese-owned Tiktok video app after a court expressed concerns over the spread of pornographic material.
TikTok Ban: Are Steps Taken to Monitor the Platform Too Little, Too Late? The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology pubhas asked Google and Apple to take TikTok down from the Indian app stores; where does the company go from here?
Video-centric social media app TikTok has just received a significant blow, as the Madras High Court has issued a directive to the Government of India to ban downloads of the app in India. The Government has, in turn, asked Apple and Google to disable the downloads of the TikTok app from the App Store and the Play Store respectively. This is just the latest saga in a long chapter for TikTok, which has faced significant backlash, including allegations of quality control, coupled with the addictive nature of the content on its app.
Tiktok has already been banned in neighboring Bangladesh and hit with a large fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.
The app, which claims to have 500 million users worldwide including more than 120 million in India, has been fighting the effort to shut it down after a high court in Chennai called for the ban on 3 April.
Industry sources told AFP that the information technology ministry had now sent out an order to Google and Apple to remove the app from their online stores. Neither of the US companies would comment. Reuters reported that Google had complied with the order.
The app was still available on Apple’s platforms late on Tuesday but was no longer available on Google’s Play store in India.
The app – which allows users to make and share short videos – can still be used by those who have already downloaded it on their smartphones.
India’s supreme court, which on Monday rejected a Tiktok appeal to suspend the order, is to hear the case again on 22 April.
“We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India,” Tiktok said in a statement Tuesday.
Having termed the judgement so far to be “disproportionate, discriminatory and arbitrary”, TikTok remains positive that it will see through this difficult phase in India, and is taking steps in a bid to prove its intent in the Indian internet market and remain compliant with the laws of the land. While all of these steps are reliant on how proactive its users become in reporting content that is objectionable, the platform hopes that it will help them see through a difficult phase, after a meteoric growth phase that threw a spanner in the plans of homegrown social media startups.
But this stricter approach has sparked concern about government overreach and censorship. Some say it could herald a shift towards a new internet model in India echoing to China’s own “Great Firewall.”
“For Google to have complied with a directive is quite remarkable,” said Arun Mohan Sukumar, an internet governance specialist at think tank Observer Research Foundation.
Sukumar said this could lead to increased pressure being put on companies like Google and Apple.
“This is probably going to be seen as an opportunity by many law enforcement agencies to go for the jugular,” he said.
Tiktok has continued to be drawn into controversy in India.
On Sunday a 19-year-old man was allegedly shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video to show on TikTok, police told Indian media.
Three friends were driving in Delhi when one pulled out a homemade pistol and aimed it at the driver. Police said the gun accidentally went off, shooting the man through the head.
And the moves in India to ban Tiktok are the latest in a string of woes for the popular app.
Bangladesh banned Tiktok in February as part of a clampdown on internet pornography.
The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission said a $5.7m fine ordered against Tiktok was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.
The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.
With Agence France-Presse and Reuters
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