TikTok has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally. (Bloomberg)
TikTok has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally. (Bloomberg)

Madras high court lifts TikTok ban in India, in boost to ByteDance

  • It wasn't immediately clear whether the Union IT ministry would revoke its instructions to Apple and Google on the TikTok ban
  • The TikTok ban worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms

New Delhi: In a boost to Beijing Bytedance Technology Co., the Madras high court on Wednesday lifted the TikTok ban that it had imposed on 3 April following a case accusing the short video-sharing app of propagating pornographic content and exposing children to predators.

"I argued that there shouldn't be a ban on the intermediary, there should be removal of offending content. I showed the court the do's and don'ts of the statutory guidelines on how intermediaries should function," said Arvind Datar, who was appointed as Amicus Curae (independent counsel) to the court.

TikTok welcomed the Madras high court's order.

“We are glad about this decision, and we believe it is also greatly welcomed by our thriving community in India, who use TikTok as a platform to showcase their creativity," said TikTok in a statementon Wednesday.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better. While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against misuse of the platform has been recognised, the work is never 'done' on our end. We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India."

On 3 April, the Madras high court directed the central government to prevent TikTok downloads, following which the app was taken off both Apple and Google app stores. On 22 April, the Supreme Court directed the Madras high court to decide on a plea in the hearing scheduled for 24 April, failing which it said the order would stand vacated. The Madras high court, after hearing a plea from ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, reversed its 3 April decision.

TikTok has over 200 million users in the country, according to the company.

While the ban has been lifted, the app wasn’t available on the Apple and Google app stores at the time of publishing this story.

That said, despite the ban, TikTok continued to be downloaded in India, and saw the number of downloads from third-party websites increase phenomenally. In fact, Artem Russakovskii, founder of APKMirror, told Mint on 23 April that since the TikTok ban (on 3 April), downloads had jumped “roughly 10-15 times, and a majority of them are from India". APKMirror is a popular and trusted website for downloading apps that are not available on the Android app store.

"The ban was an illusory search for a utopian world that doesn’t exist. It's also counter-productive and often ends up giving far more traffic to the banned platform," Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw expert.

"There are so many indirect ways to access banned content, as we saw in the case of TikTok. The message that is loud and clear is that India is going to see the progress and contribution of these apps with a microscopic viewpoint and that they will have to ensure compliance with Indian parameters and Indian laws."

In an interview with Mint on 23 April, TikTok's director of global public policy, Helena Lersch, said that TikTok would continue to invest in its Indian users even if the ban is not lifted after 24 April. Lersch told PTI in a 19 April interview that ByteDance plans to invest $1 billion in India in the next three years.

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