More Chinese apps to be banned soon

By: |
November 29, 2020 6:45 AM

There are several apps, which, despite being banned, reappear through proxies and, therefore, continuous monitoring needs to be done.

The government had first banned 59 apps, including TikTok, WeChat, etc, on June 29, followed by another set of 47 apps in July, which were proxies of the banned apps.

The government is in the process of preparing a fresh list of Chinese mobile apps that would be banned very shortly. Sources said since there’s no comprehensive list of Chinese apps that can be banned in one go, the process adopted is to follow the apps that find traction in app stores and are being downloaded the most. Once this is done, strict monitoring is done and action taken.

There are several apps, which, despite being banned, reappear through proxies and, therefore, continuous monitoring needs to be done.

The strategy of the government is clear. By banning more and more Chinese apps at regular intervals and then providing them the route to present their case before an inter-ministerial panel, the pace of bans would be far ahead of the redressal mechanism process.

For instance, on November 24, the government banned a fresh set of 43 Chinese mobile apps, including the likes of Alibaba Workbench, CamCard and a host of dating apps among others, by invoking Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which empowers it to block apps/content that are engaged in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of the country, its defence, security of state and public order.

This is the fourth instance of the government banning Chinese apps since the India-China border skirmish erupted. The government had first banned 59 apps, including TikTok, WeChat, etc, on June 29, followed by another set of 47 apps in July, which were proxies of the banned apps. On September 2, it banned 118 Chinese mobile apps, which included the popular gaming platform PUBG as well as Baidu, which is China’s largest search engine provider.

In all, around 267 apps have been banned since June but the redressal mechanism for the first set is far from over.

In the case of app bans, the law is such that the government does not need to first serve a notice to the companies concerned and wait for their replies. The companies concerned also cannot approach courts for any interim relief.

This is because the government has emergency powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act to block any content where it is satisfied that it is against the country’s sovereignty, integrity, and defence, and in such cases the law does not require it to serve any prior notice to the content providers concerned before ordering a ban.

The rules under Section 69A are such that the companies concerned can represent their case to the government after the ban, which will then conduct a full-fledged inquiry by an inter-ministerial panel into the matter. This inter-ministerial body will subsequently submit its report to the IT secretary, who, based on the evidence, will decide the future course. If the secretary feels the ban is justified and needs to be continued, the companies concerned then have an option to appeal before the cabinet secretary, who will then form a panel to hear them. This panel would not include the IT secretary as it is on his decision that an appeal has been made.

Officials aware of the process of inquiry said the nature is such that the onus lies on the companies concerned to prove that they have not indulged in any anti-national activities rather than the government furnishing any proof which may be in its possession. For instance, in the case of Chinese apps, the government panel may ask them to prove how any data stored abroad was not shared with the Chinese government.

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