To anyone who hasn’t heard of the TikTok App, the first thing that’s going to pop in your minds is the song by Ke$ha! But no, we aren’t talking about the song. We’re referring to the app that’s been all over the news lately, and that too for all the wrong reasons! So let’s get started.
What is TikTok?
For those of you who don’t know about the app, let me tell you a few things to know about it before we go into a full-fledged discussion on the drama that is has caused in India! The TikTop app provides the users with a platform for making mini-videos (about 15-60 seconds long approximately) and sharing them across various social media platforms. Ever since its launch in India, it has been growing rapidly and gaining users by the minute. Its Indian user base consists largely of the youth and children in the country.
What was the Issue?
The app got heat for allegedly allowing ‘pornographic’ and ‘sleazy’ content to be shared on the app, especially among its young user base. And before you jump to the conclusion that the Indian Systems are always making a mountain out of a mole hill, the app has been alleged in several other countries as well for being a fertile hunting ground for paedophiles.
What was the series of events that led to the ban and subsequent un-ban of the app?
In July 2018, the app was banned in Indonesia for “Negative Content”.
A few days later, Indonesia’s Government lifted the ban on the app.
In October 2018, a 24-year old user from Chennai allegedly committed suicide due to excessive harassment from the app users for posting videos of himself dressed as a woman.
In Jan 2019, S Ramadoss, the founder of the Pattali Makkal Katchi party in Tamil Nadu requested the State Government to ban the app on account of causing the children to be distracted and sexually perverse in behaviour.
In Feb 2019, the Tamil Nadu IT Minister, M Manikandan gave a statement to the effect that the TN Government would be seeking the help of the Central Government in seeking a ban on the app on the grounds of causing degradation of Tamil Nadu’s culture and leading to issues related to law and order in the state.
Barely a few days later, an accident took place leading to the death of 1 and severe injury to 2 college students after their motorcycles crashed into a truck while making a video on the app!
On 1st April 2019, Muthu Kumar, (an advocate and a social activist), filed a plea with the Madras High Court for banning the app on the grounds of “Pornographic” Content and its potential as a paedophile hunting ground!
On 3rd April, 2019 the Madras High Court demanded that the Centre bans the app and prohibits media from distributing any content created on the app. (app was banned by Madras High Court). The ban was an interim one, till a final judgement was passed by the High Court.
On 12th April, 2019, TikTok responded to the allegations by releasing a comment saying that it had removed 6 million videos from the platform on the grounds of non-compliance with the app community guidelines.
On 13th April, 2019 TikTok reported a gain of 88.6 million new users in India in Q1 of 2019, while a 19 year-old was allegedly shot dead by his friend as they posed with a pistol to create a video on the app!
On 15th April, 2019, the Supreme Court refused to stay the Madras High Court’s ban on the app reasoning that the case was still going on.
On 18th April, the Government passed an order directing Apple Store and Google Play Store to remove TikTok, thus preventing any further downloads of the app.
On 22nd April, 2019, the Supreme Court directed Madras High Court to pass an interim order on the TikTok case by 24th April, 2019, failing which, the order would stand vacated i.e. the ban would be lifted.
On 24th April, 2019, the Madras High Court reversed its original decision to ban the app. Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. should thank Arvind Datar (who was appointed as Amicus Curae (independent counsel) to the court.) for his recommendation to the Court to focus on removing the negative content from the platform as opposed to removing the platform entirely.
TikTok launched several features to remove such harmful content and increase the safety of the platform, in order to comply with the laws and regulations of the Country.
Post the lifting of the ban, TikTok has become one of the most downloaded applications in the Country!