Ban on TikTok, Chinese apps: How it will be enforced, what will be its impact?

Updated: Jun 30, 2020, 20:16 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

A formal order will be issued by the Information Technology Ministry soon to Internet service providers and phone companies to remove these apps

Photo used for representational purpose. (Photo/AFP)
Photo used for representational purpose. (Photo/AFP)

The Union government on Monday banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser, Xiaomi’s Mi Community, ShareIt, and CamScanner, over national security concerns.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on Monday issued a list of 59 Chinese apps that are now banned in the country.

"These measures have been undertaken since there is credible information that these apps are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order," said a MeitY statement.

What is the legal basis of the ban?

The ban has been enforced under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act (Power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource), read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009.

List of 59 Chinese apps banned by Indian government

Under Section 69A of the IT Act, the Central Government or any of its officer specially authorised by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above, it may… by order, direct any agency of the Government or intermediary to block for access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by the public any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource.

The MeitY said that it had received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers that have locations outside India.

How will the ban be enforced?

A formal order will be issued by the Information Technology Ministry soon to Internet service providers and phone companies to remove these apps. The ban will be applicable to new downloads as well as those who already have these apps in their mobile. The users will see a message saying access to these apps has been restricted as per the directives of the government.

Some of the apps have disappeared from both Google Play Store and Apple App Store on Tuesday. There was no official communication from Google or Apple on its removal from their respective stores.

In October 2018, a 24-year-old man from Chennai allegedly committed suicide following harassment by TikTok users for posting videos of himself dressed as a female.

In April last year, Madras High Court had imposed a ban on TikTok following a case accusing the short video-sharing app of propagating pornographic content and exposing children to predators. However, the ban was revoked on April 24, within a few days.

In February 2020, the Golden temple in Amritsar had banned shooting TikTok videos at its premises. In the same month, Hyderabad police had registered a criminal case against Twitter, WhatsApp, and TikTok on charges of facilitating the spread of hatred and enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, and anti-national content.

What will be the impact of the ban?

Many of the banned apps like TikTok, Likee, Helo, and Vigo Video have a huge userbase in India. TikTok, which was launched globally in September 2017, has over 200 million users in India, which is said to be the biggest driver of this app. TikTok owner Bytedance Technology Company had plans to invest $1 billion in the country.

Read here how Twitterati reacted to the ban

Also, Club Factory and Shein are e-commerce platforms that were looking at expanding their operations.

The ban will put thousands of jobs at stake as many of these apps have employees and offices in India. According to reports, most of these apps have Indian creators, who fear losing their only source of income.

According to a report published by Paulson Institute’s MacroPolo think tank in April, six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in India were from Chinese companies.

As per the experts, the dynamics for the advertising industry, which is already facing disruption on account of the pandemic and the sluggish economy, will change significantly.

What TikTok says

Chinese short-video making app TikTok on Tuesday said it is in the process of complying with the Indian government order. It also said that it is not sharing any data of Indian users with the Chinese government.

"The government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok and we are in the process of complying with it," Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok India, said in a statement.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by TikTok India (@indiatiktok) onJun 29, 2020 at 8:48pm PDT

What China says

Responding to the ban, China on Tuesday said it is strongly concerned. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “China is strongly concerned and verifying the situation.”

The move by the Centre to ban these apps came amid strained bilateieral relations between India and China after the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese PLA troops in eastern Ladakh.

Alternatives for TikTok

After the ban, Indians have rushed to download social app Chingari, a desi alternative to Chinese TikTok, which is witnessing nearly 1 lakh downloads and over 2 million views per hour since the ban was announced.

Read the full story here

Already downloaded over 3 million times, the app founded by Bengaluru-based programmers, is trending at the top spot on Google Play Store. The other alternatives are Roposo, Mintron and Dubsmash.

(With inputs from agencies)

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