ByteDance-owned TikTok is one of 59 Chinese apps that have been banned by the government of India over privacy concerns.
TikTok Chief Executive Kevin Mayer has called the recent India ban an unfortunate challenge even as the company works towards restoring the “positive experiences and opportunities that they can be proud of.” In a message meant for both employees as well as the creator community (and now posted on the TikTok website which you can’t access without a VPN now), the newly appointed TikTok CEO said, “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and places the highest importance on user privacy and integrity.”
ByteDance-owned TikTok is one of 59 Chinese apps that have been banned by the government of India over privacy concerns. All these apps (the list also includes the likes of UC Browser, Shareit, CamScanner and WeChat) have been deemed a national security threat for allegedly engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.
TikTok went completely offline in India yesterday to comply with the government’s ban. The TikTok apps for Android and iOS as well as its desktop website were (until yesterday) showing an error window, informing users that the service was no longer available in India. Since then, ISPs (telcos) have also selectively blocked access to the TikTok app(s) as well as the website to comply with the government’s orders. The TikTok app has already been removed from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
“Our platform has encountered an unfortunate challenge in India. However, we stay resolved and committed to our mission, and are working with stakeholders to address their concerns,” Mayer said adding that “these are unprecedented times but we remain committed to supporting the welfare of our TikTok creator community till this interim order is in effect.”
Like the company’s India head Nikhil Gandhi, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer also uses the term “interim” to describe the ban which seems to suggest that there’s a scope for negotiation. Basis of necessary consultation with the authorities, TikTok might just have a chance to make a comeback though it’s still too early to jump into any conclusions taking into account the criticality of the situation at hand.
TikTok has been banned in India before, but things are different this time round. TikTok along with 58 other apps with links to China have come under the radar for the alleged collection of user data and the unauthorized sending of this data to locations outside of India at a time when tensions with China are at an all-time high.
There’s no doubt that TikTok has been popular in India, even more so than any other app, but it has also been marred with a lot of controversy. Only recently, it was caught spying on iPhone users, something that it even admitted, and said it won’t do it anymore. That’s just one incidence. There have been more. For a long time, it allowed children as young as 13 to sign up without parental consent. It was only later (after the platform was called out for it) that it added parental controls. And for the longest time still, TikTok has remained in the thick of things for allegedly spreading pornography.
TikTok argues and this is something that even CEO Mayer points out in his message, that “our daily audience of millions of users in India have come to rely on the joy and inspiration that TikTok provides every day in a unique and democratized environment.” While all of this may be true, TikTok is also a classic case of “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and with every controversy, the adage only grows stronger.