×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

India Bans Downloads of TikTok Hit Social Media App

New downloads of the massively popular video sharing application TikTok have been halted in India. The move was ordered on Tuesday by the federal government, following a request by a Tamil Nadu state court.

The app, owned by China’s Bytedance, is hugely successful in India. It had over 240 million downloads by February, according to independent data, and a claimed 120 million monthly active users in India of its estimated 500 million MAUs.

By Wednesday both Apple and Google online stores had removed the free-to-use app. According to observers their speedy compliance is a rarity. Their speed of action may reflect the ongoing election or attempts to distance themselves from murky accusations

Bytedance said that it is appealing against the ruling. The case will next be heard in court on April 22.

TikTok’s ease of use for making, enhancing and sharing 15-second video content has made it particularly appealing to the young and to non-English speakers among India’s vast rural population and in smaller towns. But it has regularly been accused of spreading vulgarity and child abuse.

The app was banned in neighboring Bangladesh in February as part of a government move against online pornography. The same month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ordered TikTok to pay a $5.7m fine for having failed to obtain parental consent for underage users, in breach of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

On March 27, TikTok in India launched an online safety initiative, with quizzes in Hindi and English inviting users to understand rights and wrongs. It also teamed with the Cyber Peace Foundation to launch educational posters, to be distributed in schools and colleges. And it said that it had removed 6 million offending videos.

But it may have moved too late. TikTok’s current legal problems in India were sparked by an activist group in Chennai, which accused the app of encouraging pedophilia and pornography.

In a filing to the court in Chennai, Bytedance said that only a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was inappropriate or obscene. It argued that it was could not be held responsible for what users posted, and that a ban would be a restriction on freedom of speech.

But, after lurid tales of online shootings, hate speech, soliciting and fake news groups — on WhatsApp especially — allegedly swaying voters, India’s federal government has drawn up a draft bill that would require social media platforms to take greater responsibility for the content posted by users. That could require both technical solutions and increased numbers of human moderators. Bytedance says it currently employs 250 people in India.

It is unclear whether there is also a nationalist tinge to the action against TikTok. Other Chinese apps including (Alibaba’s) UC Browser, SHAREit, Club Factory, (Toutiao’s) Helo, Vigo and LIKE have also recently made major inroads in India.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Facebook

    Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps During Privacy Investigation

    Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps ever since it began investigating potential privacy abuses, the company said Friday. The apps in question had been built by around 400 developers, and a suspension doesn’t necessarily indicate actual privacy violations. Facebook began combing through millions of apps that made use of its platform after the [...]

  • tivo logo

    Tivo Plans to Launch Android TV Dongle, Tivo+ Curation App

    DVR maker Tivo is getting ready to release a new device that may not record television at all: The company plans to launch a $50 Roku-like TV dongle early next year, its new CEO Dave Shull revealed in a conversation with CNN this week. The new device will be powered by Google’s Android TV platform, [...]

  • Still from "Andhadhun"

    Microsoft Streaming Deal Lifts Shares in India’s Eros

    Shares of leading Bollywood film distributor Eros International soared by 38% on Thursday following news of the company’s link up with Microsoft to develop a new generation of video streaming platform. The multinational company said that its Eros Now video operation would work with Microsoft Azure to develop its technology in three ways. They seek [...]

  • Comcast X1 DAZN

    Comcast Adds DAZN Sports-Streaming Service to Xfinity Flex, Sets Launch on X1

    DAZN, the digital sports service headed by ex-ESPN boss John Skipper, is now available to Comcast broadband customers on Xfinity Flex and will be available on Xfinity X1 this fall. It’s the first distribution deal for DAZN with a major U.S. provider since it debuted the combat-sports-oriented service in the States a year ago. In [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Raises Bar for Channel Verification, Stripping Some Creators of Verified Status

    YouTube is making it harder for channels to receive a verification badge indicating their authenticity — and the program’s new requirements mean that some channels won’t be eligible for verification. Like other internet platforms, YouTube indicates to viewers that specific channels are officially run by the creator, artist, celebrity or company they represent with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content