TikTok and Helo, two of the most trending short video sharing apps, are again in hot waters after news broke out that both the apps will soon be banned. The policies on users’ data storage and prevention of children from getting exposed to potentially dangerous content seem to be the main cause of concern of the Indian government.
Owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, both the apps were issued an investigation questionnaire by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The questionnaire has 24 direct questions which interrogate the apps to address the issues regarding the unlawful activities that are being conducted by the same within July 22nd.
Sensing the severity of the situation, TikTok has clarified that the company would soon be setting up a data centre in India and would be amongst the first social media companies to have such facility in the country. The company has stated that it may take 6-18 months to have data centre setup and fully operational in India. TikTok, however, is yet to clear it stands on the usage policies by children and measures taken by the company to prevent children from potentially harmful content.
What All Is At Stake?
In case the apps fail to satisfies the authorities with his response, the ministry will probably be putting a permanent ban on them, according to sources in PTI.
When contacted, both TikTok and Helo reportedly stated that they credit their success in India to the local community and take their responsibilities towards them very seriously. The apps are reportedly investing a staggering $1 billion just for Indian users. They are also willing to cooperate with the government to carry on any investigation and help them resolve the stated issues.
Why A Permanent Ban?
Both Helo and TikTok could face additional charges under the IT Act of the Constitution of India as well as other necessary laws in regards to their actions along with a risk of a permanent ban. Several complaints have been raised by Swadeshi Jagran Manch, also known as the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Based on reports from the Government, there is evidence that unwarranted and unauthorized data was shared using the two apps and they are both being used for several activities that are considered to be anti-national. Moreover, Helo app has been accused of showing more than 10,000 fallacious political advertisements on its platform.
Additionally, there are several questions about users that are underage.
TikTok has been repeatedly criticised for its usage and data collection policies. Early this year, TikTok faced record fine for illegally collecting information from children who are under the age of 13.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India has also been conducting a survey wherein it is trying to find out exactly how much data the two apps have been collecting and storing from its users in India and if they are storing that data in China or not.
When questioned, Bytedance stayed strong on the statement that it always stored its data in Singapore and the U.S., and nowhere else. The Indian government, however, has been pushing all the internet platforms to have their data servers in India only.
TikTok Ban in India: Not The First Time
TikTok has also been in deep problems in early 2019 when it was taken down from the app stores in India due to an interim order by the Madras High Court with accusations that it was promoting pornography on its platform. Later, TikTok ban in India was eventually lifted on grounds that the app’s “statutorily permissible” services could not suddenly become “judicially impermissible.”
Ever since the app has introduced a lot of new features which help the users to use the platform in a more responsible manner. Regardless, it fails to address any of the concerns raised by the government regarding the way it is using the data.