TikTok’s tryst with controversy seems to be never-ending. In a recent turn of events, the Bytedance-owned platform is on the receiving end from users in India over two controversial videos that has gripped Indian social media in the past week.
The first video by TikTok influencer Faizal Siddiqui, in which he is seen in a clip allegedly glorifying acid attack and another where his brother Amir Siddiqui compares content created by TikTok and YouTube influencers.
TikTok influencer Faizal Siddiqui, who has over 13.4 lakh followers, is seen allegedly mocking acid attacks in a video. BJP politician Tajinder Bagga, who shared the clip, had tagged chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Rekha Sharma to take the matter into consideration, on Twitter. Taking cognisance of the complaint, Sharma wrote to TikTok to take down the video at the earliest. She also condemned the video for promoting acid attacks and reached out to DGP of Maharashtra Police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal seeking action against Siddiqui.
Faizal’s video comes at a time when the bigger issue of YouTube and TikTok creators clashed on social Ajey Nagar, who goes by the name CarryMinati for making controversial, seemingly homophobic comments against Amir. The video was later taken down by YouTube as it violated the platform’s policy.
A YouTube spokesperson told Inc42, “We have strict policies that prohibit harassment on YouTube, including using malicious insults based on intrinsic attributes such as sexual orientation. We quickly remove content that violates these policies when flagged by our users.”
In response to YouTube’s punitive action against CarryMinati, many of his followers and other popular YouTube influencers started a campaign against TikTok. This led to a unique TikTok versus YouTube battle among Indian internet users. For several days, #BanTikTok was a popular hashtag on microblogging platform Twitter. The hashtag has again made an entry due to the acid attack video controversy.
Meanwhile, in a matter of a few days, TikTok’s app rating has dropped dramatically from 4.5 stars to 2 stars on the Google Play Store.
After the complaint by the NCW, TikTok took down the controversial video. Meanwhile, Siddiqui took to Instagram to issue a public apology and said that his intention was not to hurt anyone. “As a social media influencer, I realise my responsibility and apologise to anyone who was offended by the video,” he wrote.
Moreover, he alleged that only a part of the video was shared over Twitter, adding that he was drinking the liquid in the first part of the video. “Who drinks acid,” he wrote. Siddiqui also shared the full video on Instagram.
He also questioned why the fuss was being made now over the video he had uploaded a month ago. The woman, who is featured in the clip, is a make-up artist.
Meanwhile, acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, who has been portrayed in Deepika Padukone-starrer Chhapaak, thanked NCW for taking cognisance of the video. “Such videos/actions should be strictly debarred which are against society.”
Will TikTok Clean Up Its Act?
TikTok, launched in 2017 in India, is said to have more than 100 Mn active users in the country. The platform is quite popular, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
Since its launch, the platform has been surrounded by multiple controversies. However, it has been trying to clear its image among authorities. Recently, the platform banned thousands of accounts while removing several questionable videos to ensure that coronavirus prevention-related fake information doesn’t pass down to its users.
Additionally, it has been running a few initiatives on the platform as well. For instance, Indian Institute Management (IIM), Indore partnered with TikTok to develop video modules for students and professionals.
Last year, it also launched its #EduTok programme. TikTok defined the programme as a “multi-phased integrated initiative aligned with the wider objective of democratising learning for the Indian digital community on the platform.”
However, it would be interesting to see the impact of the recent events on the popularity of the application which might be on the verge of an exit from the country.