We all know about TikTok, the social media app that lets users create a short music video of themselves, plus given the fact that the ads for it are appearing all over YouTube, along with the thousands of videos made by the users from the app itself.
But however you feel about it – whether you joined the hype train or preferred to pretend it didn’t exist (despite the constant ads), the social media sensation created in China, known as ‘Douyin’ owned by ByteDance, then that later changed their name to TikTok for the international market, hasn’t sat well with India since the launch.
Apple and Google have now removed TikTok from its Indian app stores. The removal of the app follows on from a ruling by the Madras High Court, which ordered the removal over concerns that it was being used to spread pornography. It also refused an appeal by TikTok’s owner, Chinese company ByteDance, to suspend the order.
TikTok has reached vast popularity since its worldwide release in 2018, and has more than 120 million users in India. However, it has faced criticism for displaying inappropriate content.
The app is already banned in Bangladesh for the same reasons, and has also been fined $5.7 million in the US for illegally gathering information on children.
The Madras High Court order requested the federal government to ban the app, on the account of it encouraging pornography and making young users exposed to sexual predators. It is due to hear the case again on April 22nd, this Monday.
ByteDance argued that a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was considered inappropriate. The company says it has over 500 million monthly active users worldwide.
According to local reports, following the preliminary ruling by the Madras High Court, India’s information technology ministry sent an order to Google and Apple, requesting them to remove the app from their online stores.
“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,” a spokesperson for TikTok said.
Particularly popular among teenagers, TikTok has become a major competitor to other social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Interestingly enough, the app became particularly popular in smaller cities and towns among first-time Internet users who don’t speak English, according to Jayanth Kolla of Convergence Catalyst.
“It looks like the Chinese Internet companies have cracked the code of getting into India,” he said. “The speed and the rate at which some of these apps are growing, that is alarming. It definitely requires more time to study better.”
However, the ban has caused some concern over government overreach and censorship, with some saying it could declare a shift towards a new internet model in India, similar to China’s own “Great Firewall.”
“For Google to have complied with a directive is quite remarkable” Arun Mohan Sukumar, Internet governance specialist at Observer Research Foundation commented. “This is probably going to be seen as an opportunity by many law enforcement agencies to go for the jugular,”
The concern over pornographic content is not the first TikTok-related issue in India, however, as there have also been past controversies involving the app. For example, a 19-year-old man was allegedly shot dead by a friend in Delhi on Sunday, as they posed with a pistol to make a video on TikTok.
Also in Delhi, three friends were driving, when one pulled out a homemade pistol and aimed it at the driver. Police told the Indian media that the gun accidentally went off, shooting the man in the head.
So, given the concerns and past deaths related to the app, perhaps this ban may just be for the better, despite the high amount of monthly users, but are TikTok really to blame for these recent incidents in India?
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: CNN