New Delhi: Four days have passed since the TikTok ban. But, despite the fact that Google and Apple have removed the TikTok app from their respective app stores, not only does the China-based short video sharing app continue to be downloaded in India, it has seen the number of downloads from third-party websites increase phenomenally.
Artem Russakovskii, founder of APKMirror, said that since the TikTok ban, downloads have 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.
According to Russakovskii, the traffic on TikTok on the website increased by roughly 5 times on 16 April—the day after India banned the app. On 17 April, the number rose to about 12x the usual traffic.
According to Google Trends, interest in the search term “TikTok download" has increased in India considerably since the ban.
India banned TikTok on 15 April when the Supreme Court refused to stay an order by the Madras high court asking the government to ban the app. The court first asked for TikTok downloads to be banned on 3 April, saying it encouraged pornography and could be used by sexual predators to target children.
Following the order, the government asked Google and Apple to remove the TikTok app from their app stores, and both complied on 16 April. The matter is sub judice, with TikTok’s plea set to be heard by the Supreme Court again on 22 April, even though existing users can still use the app.
TikTok’s popularity is evident from the fact that its parent—six-year-old Bytedance that also owns of news aggregator Toutiao—is currently valued at $75 billion against Uber Inc.’s $72 billion, according to CB Insights. ByteDance plans to invest $1 billion in India over the next three years, the Press Trust of India reported Friday.
Launched in India in 2018, TikTok has 120 million active users in the country, most of them youngsters in small towns and cities. It is largely used to capture and share moments through short video clips decorated with stickers and GIFs.
Though the app has been accused of encouraging pornography, some social media networks, such as the microblogging platform Twitter, also carry short pornographic video clips and photos put out for promotion by publishers and performers—without facing a backlash from the authorities.
Also, the TikTok ban may not completely put it beyond the reach of children, feels Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw expert. “Banning the app is completely out of sync with today’s reality. Even if the app is banned, people can still download it from other sources or by changing their location. The problem is not with the app but with third-party content. Strict action needs to be taken against people publishing such content instead of asking for a blanket ban on apps," he told Mint.
Meanwhile, the fact that TikTok can still be downloaded from third-party sites has triggered concern among mental health experts.
“It is certainly a mental health issue. Any kind of excessive behaviour needs to be recognized and adequately addressed. It could be a form of behavioural addiction, but we should be careful when we use the term, as social media usage and addiction are separate issues," said Dr Jayant Mahadevan, from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), Bengaluru.
Experts said the need is more to recognize the threats emerging from internet and social media usage. “We need to look at the problem in a scientific manner. We faced a similar situation with PUBG, and now TikTok. If we do not recognize it correctly now, it will emerge again and again. A ban may not contain the damage," said Dr Arun Kandasamy, associate professor of psychiatry, Nimhans.