The ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has blocked 232 apps with links to China for alleged involvement in betting, gambling, money laundering, and unauthorised lending. These apps have been banned on account of national security concerns, according to people aware of the matter.
The move comes after the IT ministry received a communication from the home ministry to block such apps on an “urgent” and “emergency” basis. Details including names of the blocked apps could not be immediately clarified. Of the 232 blocked apps, 138 are betting apps and 94 are loan-lending apps with hefty interest rates.
Under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, the government has the powers to restrict access to any content to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or for public order.
The government’s crackdown on apps linked to China is not a new development. In June 2020, it had first banned 59 mobile apps, including TikTok, Shareit, UC Browser, Helo, Xender, which according to the government were prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of the country. In September 2020, it had banned popular gaming app PUBG and 117 others linked to China.
“There has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India’s sovereignty as well as privacy of our citizen,” the government had said.
With regard to quick loan apps, too, there have been multiple complains of hefty interest rates and threats from the owners of these apps on delay in payment of loans.
“The order has been issued with regard to protecting the data of citizens and ensuring that these apps do not pose threat to the national security,” an official said, without revealing names of the banned apps.
In the last two years, the government has banned about 400 apps related to gaming, video editing, video conferencing, music and entertainment, among others.
Lately, the government has also been vocal about prohibiting games which have wagering as an outcome. To put a blanket ban on betting in online gaming, MeitY on January 2 notified draft amendments to the IT rules, which once enacted will enable self-regulatory framework and additional due diligence by online gaming companies.
The new gaming rules will give power to SROs to verify the games before they are published, hosted or advertised by online gaming intermediaries, introduce a framework to define the content of an online game in a view to safeguard users against harm, ensure that online gaming companies are taking measures to safeguard children, specifying risk of gaming addiction and financial loss through repeated warning messages at higher frequency beyond a reasonable duration for a gaming session etc, and taking measures to safeguard against the risk of financial frauds.