New Delhi: With the Supreme Court refusing to stay the Madras High Court order early this month, to ban social media platform TikTok for encouraging pornography, the Ministry Of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has directed Google and Apple to remove the social media app from their respective app stores in a bid to prevent further downloads.
Following the Madras High Court’s order, TikTok had reached out to Supreme Court for a stay on the order but the appeal was rejected on 15 April on grounds that the matter was subjudice.
Both TikTok and its Lite variant, which was recently launched for users with entry level Android phones in India, are no longer listed on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. However, the apps can still be downloaded from web-based third-party app stores like Apk Mirror and Apkpure.
Watch video: Google, Apple block TikTok app in India
A TikTok spokesperson clarified that this is not a permanent ban, and will not impact existing users. "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," the spokesperson said.
Launched in India in 2018, TikTok has 120 million active users in India, particularly youngsters in small town and cities. It is being largely used to capture and share moments through short videos clips decorated with fun stickers and filters. However, the furore over TikTok emerged since it has been accused of encouraging pornography.
That said, some social media networks like the microblogging platform, Twitter, also carry short pornographic video clips and photos put out for promotion by publishers and performers, without facing backlash from the authorities. Some experts feel the ban is more justified due to the nature of the audience. “The decision to ban TikTok makes sense because it has a much younger audience which includes children who are still in school, unlike Twitter which has more mature audience," says Shradha Agarwal, COO, Grapes Digital.
However, banning TikTok may not completely put it behind the reach of children, feels Pavan Duggal, leading cyberlaw expert. He points out, “Banning the app is completely out of sync with today's time. Even if the app is banned, people can still download them from other sources or by changing their location. We are not understanding the bigger challenge of how to deal with the paradigm. The problem is not with the app but third-party content. Strict action needs to be taken against people publishing such content instead of asking for a blanket ban on apps."
Also, in the absence of the app from legitimate and trusted sources, users may turn to web based third-party stores, which can be more dangerous as they do not verify apps for hidden malicious content as Google and Apple do.