A few months ago the mobile phone game PubG was the most hated thing for Indian parents. Now, the video app Tik Tok has become their latest object of detestation. And Indian lawmakers too seem to share their derision for the mobile application.
Tik Tok, owned by ByteDance, is one of the popular apps among the youth set of the country, and as per estimates, India has roughly 25 million active users daily. The content is mostly 15-second short video clips.
But what started as uploads of fun and slice-of-life moments has quickly moved, as it always happens, to contentious bits from various sources. From crude porn to outright paedophile material to provocative fake news to downright dangerous stunts, Tik Tok has them all, making anxious parents and clueless lawmakers scurrying for quick-fix solutions.
Typically, there has been a talk of wholesome ban on TikTok. On Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu Minister for Information and Technology said that he would get the Chinese-developed app banned in the State.
There has been a clamour for similar action in a few other States too. There is a general perception that the content available on Tik Tok is dangerous to both the culture and law and order in the country. The allegation may be omnibus, but there has been more than an element of truth in it.
The short video clips available on the Tik Tok platform can be downloaded by unregistered users and can be shared on other social media platforms. “This is where all the mischief happens,” says V Rathna, working with a firm that analyses cyber data and tracks such app-based cyber content. “With bulk of the user-base being in the 18 to 30 years category, and Tik Tok being hugely popular in tier and tier two cities, you can imagine the gullibility of the consumers. Their vulnerability for provocative and problematic content is huge,” she adds. The short videos can be amped up with special effects and templated designs available on the platform.
Media reports have it that the Indian government itself had informally taken up the troublesome aspects of Tik Tok platform to the company. The company, for its part, has unveiled a campaign on the platform to drive home the importance of avoiding provocative and pornographic content.
With the government toying with stringent plans to curb problematic content across platforms, Tik Tok has also put in place a team that is expected to monitor content without breaching privacy in any way. Its team in India is, sources say, well-versed in Hindi, English and several regional languages like Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Gujarati.
With the company being owned by Chinese, India has a different problem in mind while dealing with Tik Tok. The government is concerned from the national security angle, too, say sources. Aside from this, a foreign company in charge of India-generated content also brings into focus the issue of Indian data sovereignty.
With such multifarious issues swirling around, no wonder Indian politicians are thinking on the lines of a total ban. Of course, these wholesome curbs are always counterproductive and never really work in the longer run.
Just for instance, the ban on porn sites does not seem to have yielded desired results, and India continues to be one of countries with one of the largest bases for porn content even after the ban.
The problems thrown up by Tik Tok are real. And what they cry for is solutions that are nuanced and sensitive. Politicos have to come up with some creatives solutions before more poisonous mischief is spread via the platform.
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