India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has reportedly asked Google and Apple to remove the Chinese video sharing application TikTok from their app stores.
This development comes just a day after the Supreme Court had rejected TikTok’s plea to stay a Madras High Court order from April 3, to put a ban on the app’s downloads.
The MeitY order will only impact new downloads of the app but those who have already downloaded the app will still be able to use it.
“The High Court asked the government to prohibit download of TikTok application. It (Meity) is ensuring that by asking Google and Apple to delete it from the app stores. Now it is up to the companies to do it or appeal the order,” ET quoted a source as saying.
Along with a ban on app downloads, the Madras High Court order had also prohibited media from telecasting TikTok videos and asked the government to enact a cyberbullying and anti-child sexual abuse law similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA in the US.
In its ruling, the High Court had specifically noted that TikTok exposes children to pornography, and makes them vulnerable to sexual predators online.
Not unlike some other social media apps, TikTok allows its users to create small lip-synced videos played to licensed tunes, and share it across the platform. Its Indian user base accounts for 39% of the 500 Mn global users.
TikTok’s Efforts In The Case
In response to the HC order, Bytedance-owned TikTok removed six million videos from its platform on April 13, for violating its community guidelines.
At that time, the company had said that it is committed towards providing a positive in-app environment for its users in India, and had removed over six million videos that violated its guidelines.
TikTok also introduced a age-gate feature for new users, which only allowed those aged 13 and above to login and create an account.
In its plea to the SC , TikToK argued that it is an intermediary as defined under Section 79 of the country’s Information Technology Act, and it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is representing TikTok in this case, had argued that the ban order has been causing the company irreparable damage.
However, the SC bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ordered that the case will be heard again on April 22, after the Madras High Court has made further observations on April 16.
International Regulations Against TikTok
TikTok has faced legal challenges in other territories too. In February, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had imposed a $5.7 Mn fine on TikTok because of the app’s failure to obtain parental consent from minors as required by the country’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Also in February, the Bangladesh government had blocked the use of TikTok, among thousands of other apps.
Further, Indonesia had also banned the use of TikTok for a week citing the app’s pornographic content. The ban was reversed after TikTok agreed to remove objectionable content, which it has done in India as well.