Apple has been requested to remove the popular Chinese social video app TikTok from the App Store by the Indian government, over the belief developer ByteDance is failing to protect its younger users from seeing inappropriate content and that the app is a danger to children.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued the demand to Apple, as well as to Google for the Google Play Store, to remove the app from being available to download. According to two people familiar with the matter, the order seeks to prevent any further downloads in India, but won't stop those who have already done so from continuing to use TikTok on their mobile devices.
According to the Economic Times, the Madras High Court issued an order to ban the app, but ByteDance requested a stay, arguing the order would cause irreparable damage to the company. On Monday, the Supreme Court refused the stay, prompting the move by MeitY.
"The High Court asked the government to prohibit download of TikTok. It (MeitY) is ensuring that by asking Google and Apple to delete it from the app stores," said one of the report sources. "Now it is up to the companies to do it or appeal the order."
The Madras High Court ruling on April 3 also restricted other companies from rebroadcasting videos made using TikTok, preventing the spread of content from that platform onto others. ByteDance's petition to the Supreme Court claimed it could not be held liable for third-party activities on its app, and since it is the same as any other social media service, the ban singling out TikTok was discriminatory and arbitrary.
The company also believes the "disproportionate" ban was an infringement on the fundamental right to speech and expression.
"At TikTok, we have faith in the Indian Judicial system and the stipulations afforded to social media platforms by the Information Technology Rules, 2011," the firm advised in a statement, referencing conditional legal safeguards relating to content produced by users and third parties on platforms. "We are committed to continuously enhancing our existing measures and introducing additional technical and moderation processes as part of our ongoing commitment to our users in India."
The app is extremely popular in India, with 88.6 million users added to the app's user base in the March quarter within the country alone, making up a large proportion of the 188 million new users the app saw on a global basis.
Just as with other platforms, TikTok has come under fire for how the app handles third-party content, and a supposed lack of monitoring the content for illegal or immoral items. It is suggested there is a danger younger users could be exposed to nudity within the app, as well as for some to become the targets for grooming operations.
The legal situation facing TikTok is only part of a global struggle by lawmakers to police content on social networks.