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TikTok missing in action on Appstore, Playstore

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Madras High Court’s ban on the app. The matter is up for hearing on April 22 in Supreme Court

Apr 17, 2019 by Avanish Tiwary
TikTok missing in action on Appstore, Playstore

Google and Apple have removed Chinese short video app TikTok from their respective app stores, within a day of receiving the order from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The Passage couldn’t find TikTok in Google’s Playstore and Apple’s Appstore.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Madras High Court’s ban on the app. The matter is up for hearing on April 22 in Supreme Court.

Although the ministry’s order will stop further downloads of TikTok, users who already have the app can still use it.

In an email statement, TikTok had said, "We welcome the decision of the Madras High Court to appoint Arvind Datar as Amicus Curae (independent counsel) to the court. 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, who continue using TikTok to showcase their creativity and capture moments that matter in their everyday lives."

Inappropriate content

Madras High Court banned the app on April 3 for "pornographic and inappropriate content".

In its petition to the Supreme Court last week, ByteDance said it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform. The 'disproportionate' ban has resulted in infringement of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, it said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Bytedance (India) Technology Pvt. Ltd, on Monday argued at the Supreme Court for a stay against the ban, contending that it was causing the company irreparable damage.

Last year in July, Indonesia banned TikTok for pornographic as well as blasphemous content.

TikTok’s parent ByteDance also came under fire from cyber security experts for lack of privacy settings that exposed the identity of hundreds of children in HongKong to strangers.

Talking to The Passage, Abhilash Inumella, founder at Samosa Labs, said, “In China, the content is much more mature. The country fears such content will lead to a lot of cultural issues and has put stringent regulations in place to tackle the problem.”

Hyderabad-based Samosa Labs claims to have a million plus daily active users on its short video platform.

According to Inumella, the ban in India will force the company to make content monitoring more stringent.

“App developers are focused on the growth and don’t bother much about specific content and its consequences. They are more concerned about improving their algorithms, etc,” he said.

In China, TikTok has more than 20,000 employees who regularly monitor the content and remove anything explicit in nature, said a China-based industry expert who did not wish to be named.

“TikTok will set up a small team in India for self-regulation as a good gesture. But it will not be for long term due to the cost involved in maintaining the team,” the person said.

The Madras High Court on April 16 refused to remove the ban and appointed senior advocate Arvind Datar as an independent counsel to examine TikTok's implications.

Tiktok’s major competitior in India, ShareChat, claims to have 40 million plus monthly active users (MAU), while Helo claims to have 25 million MAUs as of December 2018.

According to techARC, a research company, “The impact of Tik Tok ban is seen on some other substitutes such as ‘Like’, which is trending at number 3 on April 16, 2019 in India, as per Appannie. Even if somehow, Tik Tok use is made impossible in India, users will keep on looking for substitutes and replicate the behaviour which has gone to the extent of addiction.”

(Ruiyao Luo contributed to this piece.)

Avanish Tiwary

Avanish Tiwary is a Bangalore-based tech journalist. He focuses on emerging Indian startups and unicorns. He can be reached at avanish.tiwary@thepassage.cc.

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