India acts against Tiktok app over pornography concerns

India acts against Tiktok app over pornography concerns
Picture: AFP

New Delhi: The Indian government on Tuesday ordered tech giants Google and Apple to take down the Chinese-owned Tiktok video app after a court expressed concerns over the spread of pornographic material, sources told AFP.

Tiktok has already been banned in neighbouring Bangladesh and hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.

The app, which claims to have 500 million users worldwide with more than 120 million in India, has been fighting the effort to shut it down after a high court in Chennai called for the ban on April 3.

Industry sources said the information technology ministry had now sent out an order to tech giants Google and Apple to remove the app from their online stores. Neither of the US companies would comment.

The app — which allows users to make and share short videos — can still be used by those who have already downloaded it on their smartphones.

India’s Supreme Court, which on Monday rejected a Tiktok appeal to suspend the order, is to hear the case again on April 22.

“We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India,” Tiktok said in a statement Tuesday.

The Chennai case was launched by an activist group which said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.

With short videos of up to 15 seconds, Tiktok has become a major rival to Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites among teenaged smartphone users in the past year.

But facing increased pressure the app, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, said last week it had taken down six million videos in India since last July which had infringed its guidelines.

The company said the measures were to “reinforce our ongoing commitment to ensure that our platform remains a safe and positive space for our Indian users.”

But Tiktok has continued to be drawn into controversy in India.

On Sunday, a 19-year-old man was allegedly shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video to show on TikTok, police told Indian media.

Three friends were driving in Delhi, when one pulled out a homemade pistol and aimed it at the driver. Police said the gun accidentally went off, shooting the man through the head.

And the moves in India to ban Tiktok are the latest in a string of woes for the popular app.

Bangladesh banned Tiktok in February as part of a clampdown on internet pornography.

The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission said a $5.7 million fine ordered against Tiktok was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.

The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.