Indian officials have been scrambling to stop people from using TikTok in the country, so they can control porn and political trolling.
The calls for banning TikTok have come amidst growing concerns over sexually explicit content being shared on the app, as well as its use for criticising legislators and law enforcement. (India has a long tradition of attempting to ban porn.) In February, M. Manikandan, the information technology minister of the Indian state Tamil Nadu, began pushing for a TikTok ban in the state of Tamil Nadu after state legislator Thamimun Ansari reportedly said the popularity of TikTok among youth was driving cultural degeneration.
Government concern about TikTok has only grown since then. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which regulated digital communications, ordered Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their stores. The agency was responding to a request from the Tamil Nadu High Court of Madras, which conducted an investigation and determined that TikTok was fostering the spread of porn and other illicit content, according to TechCrunch.
A day earlier, the Supreme Court refused to stay an earlier order from the Madras High Court to ban TikTok. But that was an interim order, according to The Hindu BusinessLine. The Supreme Court is still deliberating Madras High Court order to ban TikTok, and a Supreme Court bench is expected to hear the case on 22 April.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s request to Apple and Google to remove the app would prevent any further downloads, but it would not prevent current TikTok users from using the app.
TechCrunch reports that the app was still up on the Apple store in India, as of Tuesday morning US time. However, Reuters reports that Google blocked TikTok on its app store to comply with India’s court order.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment, but in a statement shared with TechCrunch, TikTok said, “We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India, who continue using TikTok to showcase their creativity and capture moments that matter in their everyday lives.”
Apple and Google did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment.
If any action is taken it would be a major blow to TikTok’s growth. A report from the app analytic firm SensorTower issued last week showed that TikTok gained 188 million new users last quarter, with the largest growth coming from India, which had 88.6 million new users.
Despite the growing movement within India’s government to censor a hugely popular music-based short-video app—the country still hasn’t made much headway in regulating WhatsApp, which has repeatedly been linked to dangerous misinformation and mob violence. [TechCrunch, The Next Web, India Today]
Featured image: Ashwini Bhatia (AP)