Why The Indian Government Banned TikTok - Sourajit Saha

Why The Indian Government Banned TikTok

TikTok has increasingly come under pressure and has been a victim of its fame. In 2019, the app was the most downloaded app with over half a billion users of which 120 million are from the Asian giant, India. It looks like everyone desires their 15 seconds of fame, literally. The 15-second video creating and sharing app has almost become a movement and has been a sensation more so for celebrities worldwide. Love it or hate it, the app is the craze right now. Its popularity has not come unabashed. 
Why The Indian Government Banned TikTok
Don't Miss: How Much Can You Earn From TikTok?

On the upper side, owing to its massive popularity, its parent company Bytedance was able to gain a market valuation of 75 billion dollars. Not bad for a start-up, is it? On the downside, the app has been the subject of several lawsuits around the world and for India, a subject of a national debate that has threatened to divide the tight-knit community. Firstly, lets look at some of the legal hurdles the company has faced at the time of publishing.

TikTok and Lawsuits

In Pakistan

Countries like Bangladesh have entirely banned the app from their countries. The mostly-conservative states cite erosion of morals among the youth, who constitute the majority of users, as their main reason. However, given the trend of these countries to tightly control social media, it cannot be rued to be a case of suppressing freedom of expression among its citizens. 

Some countries' internet laws cannot allow any form of social media that become a hit with its citizens for fear of revolt. Pakistan was also mulling over banning the app. A lawyer had filed a suit at a high court of the Muslim majority state and said TikTok was a major source of obscene content and erosion of Islamic morals. In fact, in the petition, TikTok was dubbed the greatest evil of modern times and although that sounds extreme, it goes on to show how some places have very little time for this explosive app.

Read Also: Is TikTok Safe For kids?

In the United States

TikTok has also been involved in many cases before US courts which is not a surprise given its number of users and has spent quite some bucks in settling lawsuits in the country. For instance, a guardian of a teen user of the app claimed that TikTok uses facial data in coming up with filters and effects, data which is acquired and stored without the user's consent. It was the subject of a class action complaint filed by the guardian.

That is just an example of the dozens of cases the company is facing and things could go the Facebook way. Facebook agreed to pay more than 500 million dollars to settle violations of privacy laws with its photo-tagging feature. Many other cases are ongoing in US courts and the company has come under heat for its handling of millions of users data. In the United States, TikToks data practices started coming under scrutiny long ago including a $5.7 million fine imposed on it by the Federal Trust Commission, a consumer protection agency.

Privacy and online protection of children have been the singing points in these suits. A group of activists and advocates were recently in the corridors of justice over the apps disregard for the Children Online Privacy Protection Act. The groups claimed that TikTok did not destroy all the personal data is collected from users below the age of 13 and the app had minors using it who had not gained parental control.

Read Also: Which Countries Have Banned TikTok?

In India

India has been no exception. It all began in January 2019 with S. Ramadoss who is the founder of a major party in Tamil. He petitioned the government to ban TikTok alluding that the app distracts children and it causes them to be averse to their sexuality. Besides, the Tamils information and technology minister supported the idea. According to the minister, the degradation of law and order in society as well as the erosion of Tamil Nadu culture were the main causes of his support. A few days later, while filming a TikTok video, a college student got into a freak motorcycle accident and was severely injured. The wheels were already in motion. Muthu Kumar, a social activist known throughout India, filed a plea in the High Court to ban TikTok for its mature content specifically pornographic content which exposed children to online predators. Following the suit, the High Court issued the order to ban the app and prohibited any form of media to broadcast any form of content created on its platform. TikTok was subsequently pulled from the Indian stores, closing shop on all it's over 120 million users at that time.

With such a huge number of lost users, TikTok's action was swift. The app took down more than 6 million videos which were perceived to be flouting community guidelines and after intense lobbying, the ban was periodically lifted. As of 2020, the ban was effectively lifted in its entirety and Indian users on the app are at an all-time high. This follows a similar outcome in Indonesia where the app was temporarily banned in the country for close to eight days before finding its way back. 

Conclusion

All in all, the class action suits against TikTok have not only set data privacy standards for upcoming apps but have also improved the overall TikTok experience. For instance, following increased uproar, TikTok launched a version of the app for younger users and also allowed for tighter parental control for underage users. Also, the app's management committed to regulating content with the view of keeping violence and inappropriate videos off its platform. Of course, it is always a work in progress and more needs to be done especially with data protection in this day of data-driven commerce. One thing for sure, class action suits will never go away and the app has to continually improve overall user experience and data security.
TikTok has increasingly come under pressure and has been a victim of its fame. In 2019, the app was the most downloaded app with over half a billion users of which 120 million are from the Asian giant, India. It looks like everyone desires their 15 seconds of fame, literally. The 15-second video creating and sharing app has almost become a movement and has been a sensation more so for celebrities worldwide. Love it or hate it, the app is the craze right now. Its popularity has not come unabashed. 
Why The Indian Government Banned TikTok
Don't Miss: How Much Can You Earn From TikTok?

On the upper side, owing to its massive popularity, its parent company Bytedance was able to gain a market valuation of 75 billion dollars. Not bad for a start-up, is it? On the downside, the app has been the subject of several lawsuits around the world and for India, a subject of a national debate that has threatened to divide the tight-knit community. Firstly, lets look at some of the legal hurdles the company has faced at the time of publishing.

TikTok and Lawsuits

In Pakistan

Countries like Bangladesh have entirely banned the app from their countries. The mostly-conservative states cite erosion of morals among the youth, who constitute the majority of users, as their main reason. However, given the trend of these countries to tightly control social media, it cannot be rued to be a case of suppressing freedom of expression among its citizens. 

Some countries' internet laws cannot allow any form of social media that become a hit with its citizens for fear of revolt. Pakistan was also mulling over banning the app. A lawyer had filed a suit at a high court of the Muslim majority state and said TikTok was a major source of obscene content and erosion of Islamic morals. In fact, in the petition, TikTok was dubbed the greatest evil of modern times and although that sounds extreme, it goes on to show how some places have very little time for this explosive app.

Read Also: Is TikTok Safe For kids?

In the United States

TikTok has also been involved in many cases before US courts which is not a surprise given its number of users and has spent quite some bucks in settling lawsuits in the country. For instance, a guardian of a teen user of the app claimed that TikTok uses facial data in coming up with filters and effects, data which is acquired and stored without the user's consent. It was the subject of a class action complaint filed by the guardian.

That is just an example of the dozens of cases the company is facing and things could go the Facebook way. Facebook agreed to pay more than 500 million dollars to settle violations of privacy laws with its photo-tagging feature. Many other cases are ongoing in US courts and the company has come under heat for its handling of millions of users data. In the United States, TikToks data practices started coming under scrutiny long ago including a $5.7 million fine imposed on it by the Federal Trust Commission, a consumer protection agency.

Privacy and online protection of children have been the singing points in these suits. A group of activists and advocates were recently in the corridors of justice over the apps disregard for the Children Online Privacy Protection Act. The groups claimed that TikTok did not destroy all the personal data is collected from users below the age of 13 and the app had minors using it who had not gained parental control.

Read Also: Which Countries Have Banned TikTok?

In India

India has been no exception. It all began in January 2019 with S. Ramadoss who is the founder of a major party in Tamil. He petitioned the government to ban TikTok alluding that the app distracts children and it causes them to be averse to their sexuality. Besides, the Tamils information and technology minister supported the idea. According to the minister, the degradation of law and order in society as well as the erosion of Tamil Nadu culture were the main causes of his support. A few days later, while filming a TikTok video, a college student got into a freak motorcycle accident and was severely injured. The wheels were already in motion. Muthu Kumar, a social activist known throughout India, filed a plea in the High Court to ban TikTok for its mature content specifically pornographic content which exposed children to online predators. Following the suit, the High Court issued the order to ban the app and prohibited any form of media to broadcast any form of content created on its platform. TikTok was subsequently pulled from the Indian stores, closing shop on all it's over 120 million users at that time.

With such a huge number of lost users, TikTok's action was swift. The app took down more than 6 million videos which were perceived to be flouting community guidelines and after intense lobbying, the ban was periodically lifted. As of 2020, the ban was effectively lifted in its entirety and Indian users on the app are at an all-time high. This follows a similar outcome in Indonesia where the app was temporarily banned in the country for close to eight days before finding its way back. 

Conclusion

All in all, the class action suits against TikTok have not only set data privacy standards for upcoming apps but have also improved the overall TikTok experience. For instance, following increased uproar, TikTok launched a version of the app for younger users and also allowed for tighter parental control for underage users. Also, the app's management committed to regulating content with the view of keeping violence and inappropriate videos off its platform. Of course, it is always a work in progress and more needs to be done especially with data protection in this day of data-driven commerce. One thing for sure, class action suits will never go away and the app has to continually improve overall user experience and data security.


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