The Supreme Court has asked the Madras High Court to make a final decision on its ban on short video sharing app TikTok, within the next two days. The high court had issued an order on April 4 directing the centre to ban the video app over concerns that it encourages pornography and cyber bullying.
The interim ban on the app, will be lifted if the high court fails to give its decision, the Supreme Court said. The order was passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
Bytedance, in a petition to the Supreme Court on April 15, told the top court that the interim order was passed without hearing their arguments. However, the Supreme Court declined to stay the Madras High Court order on April 16, and listed the matter for another hearing on April 22.
In the meantime, the Madras High Court had appointed an amicus curiae (a party unrelated to the case) to assist the court in getting a better picture of the issues in the case.
The company did not comment on the latest development till the time of publication.
TikTok claims to have more than 54 Mn active users in India and said it was losing INR 4.5 Cr every day due to the ban. TikTok has also been removed from Google and Apple app stores, preventing new users from downloading the app.
TikTok had appealed to the top court last week, arguing that the Madras High Court’s decision to ban the app, and an order issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to comply with the order, violated the fundamental right to free speech and expression. The company also said that around 200 people employed to work on the app will lose their jobs.
TikTok argued that it is merely an intermediary under the Information Technology Act, 2000, on whose platform users can generate and post content. The platform itself has no role in the selection or creation of content, Tiktok said.
According to legal news outlet Bar & Bench, the company also alleged that the action ordered against it is selective, because other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram also face similar problems.
TikTok’s Preventive Measures And Global Backlash
Even through its legal battles, TikTok has taken measures to make the app safer for its users. The app revealed that it has removed over six million videos that violated its community guidelines in the last one year and also introduced a age-gate feature for its new users, which only allows users aged 13 and above to create an account on TikTok.
“We are looking forward to introducing more relevant features and initiatives to help Indian users be safe and continue to enhance their experience with TikTok,” Helena Lersch, director, Global Public Policy, TikTok, had said in a press release dated April 12.
India is not the only country where TikTok has had to face legal hurdles. In 2018, the app had faced a country-wide ban in Indonesia, which was overturned a few days later. More recently, in February, the company was accused of illegally collected information from children under the age of 13 by the US Federal Trade Commission.
TikTok agreed to pay a $5.7 Mn fine to settle the allegations, which the agency described as “the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case.”