Will A Ban On TikTok Work?
ByteDance, parent-company of TikTok mentioned that under Section 2(1)(w) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, it cannot be held responsible for the actions of third parties on the platform.
The Supreme Court on April 22 has directed the Madras High Court to decide TikTok’s future in India. Earlier, the HC’s interim order came in response to a public interest litigation filed on April 3, which alleged that TikTok encourages paedophilia, degraded culture and encouraged pornography.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology ordered Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their platforms on April 15. The following day, the app was removed from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Only those who had already installed the app could continue using it on their phones.
With over 100 million monthly users in India, its parent-company ByteDance sees large potential in India. The company plans to invest USD 1 billion in the country over the next three years.
“Not our fault,” says TikTok
According to ByteDance, the ban was passed by the Madras HC without giving the company a chance to defend itself. It mentioned that under Section 2(1)(w) of the Information Technology (IT) Act, it cannot be held responsible for the actions of third parties on the platform.
An "Intermediary" with respect to any particular electronic message means any person who on behalf of another person receives stores or transmits that message or provides any service with respect to that message. Additionally, Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000 exempts intermediaries from liability in certain instances. It states that intermediaries will not be liable for any third party information, data or communication link made available by them.
The company claims that less than one percent of its content is objectionable and that it had removed roughly 60 million videos that are objectionable in nature. ByteDance maintained that the app’s terms and conditions allowed only persons who are 13 years or older.
Tik Tok’s future
The SC has said that the interim ban will be lifted if the Madras HC fails to make a decision on April 24. But has an interim ban fared so far? It has shown counterproductive results.
TechArch, analytics, research and consulting firm has said that a potential ban will not suffice. Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC said, “There is a need to have a holistic approach to get rid of such increasing digital menace, which cannot be absolved by technology and/or legal recourse alone.”
An existing user, who has the app installed on a smartphone can easily share the apk file with another person.
APKMirror’s founder Artem Russakovskii told Livemint that downloads have increased dramatically since the ban. “The downloads have increased roughly 10-15 times and a majority of them are from India”.
On April 16, the traffic intended towards TikTok on the website increased by around five times. This was the day after the ban. On April 17, the traffic grew by 12 times.
Email, bluetooth and ShareIt are just some of the ways in which a person can become an existing user of TikTok.
A ban may not help TikTok’s growth in the country but with adequate parenting and awareness programmes, addiction to such applications can be controlled.