The fate of TikTok is yet to be decided in the Supreme Court. TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, is an app which allows people to record and share short videos.
The app has come under the scanner of the Indian judiciary for its controversial content.
In this podcast, we discuss the petitions that call for a BAN on the TikTok app, and how the ban, if imposed, will take effect.
Click on the podcast to hear the full story:
TikTok is HUGE in India. Indians took to TikTok, like bees to honey.
According to a report from Mobile App Intelligence firm Sensor Tower, out of 18.8 crore new subscribers globally, in the first quarter of 2019, 8.8 crore were from India. That’s nearly 48 percent! Imagine that, if nearly HALF of all the users for an app came from just ONE country.
Clearly, TikTok is massive, and it’s growing exponentially. Now here’s the problem with that.
Like any new medium which is growing, TikTok in India is still subject to little regulation.
Which means what? A lot of potentially illegal things could be happening on it. Which is precisely where it comes into….let’s say, a legal quandary. A petition was moved in the Madras High Court seeking a ban on TikTok in India. What exactly were the grounds for the petition?
The Quint spoke to Apar Gupta, Executive Director for the Internet Freedom Foundation, and he explained:
"“The main issues the petitioner has raised with the app are a lack of privacy protection for minors, them being suggestive or encouraged to indulge in behaviour that leans towards pornography or explicit content, and also leading to other secondary harm like distraction from studies, lack of socialization in real spaces etc.”" - Apar Gupta, Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation
Apart from the surface of the problem that Apar scratched, TikTok often sees comments that range from mildly suggestive, to attempts to solicit sex, death threats, and even rape threats in some instances. All of this, directed at children.
As a result, the Madras High court issued an interim order to the Central government on 3 April, which, first, bans downloading of the app in India, and second restricts the media from telecasting videos made with the TikTok app because the Court’s order agrees with the petitioner in saying that the TikTok app “encourages pornography” and is spoiling children’s futures.
The court also asked the Centre whether they would be able to enact a statute like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act enacted by the US government, in order to prevent children from becoming online victims.
In fact, apart from the psychological damage that the petitioners claim the app subjects children to, there’ve been other more tangible instances of damage as well.
On 14 April, police reported that a 19-year-old man in Delhi was allegedly shot dead by his friend, while they were attempting to make a TikTok video that involved a pistol.
But the fact that TikTok is an app that private individuals can access on their phone, how can the law BAN this app and monitor the ban, for a population as large as India’s, to ensure that noone is using TikTok?
"“The most common way is that they block downloads of the app from the Google Play store and the iOS store. The second way is to block the IP address queried by the app to ByteDance’s server. It’s basically about interfering with the app to the point where user-friendliness reduces to the point where the less sophisticated users using the app, which is most of the app’s users in India, are put off from using it.”" - Apar Gupta, Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation
So, in response to the Madras High Court ban on the app, the company that created TikTok, a Chinese firm called ByteDance, filed a petition against the order in the Supreme Court, saying that the Madras High Court’s order curtailed the rights to free speech and expression.
The Supreme Court, after allowing the plea, said that it will hear the petition against banning TikTok on 22 April, since the Madras High Court is scheduled to hear the case on 16 April.
We’ll explore the potential psychology at play behind apps like TikTok and games like the Blue Whale which have been accused of being used to manipulate children into self-destructive or other similar behaviours, in another podcast. So stick around.
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