TikTok vanishes from Google, Apple app stores in India after ban

TikTok had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in February. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2019
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TikTok vanishes from Google, Apple app stores in India after ban

  • TikTok is hugely popular in India but some politicians say its content is inappropriate
  • The company employs more than 250 people in India and had plans for more investment as it expands the business

NEW DELHI: The Chinese video app TikTok is no longer available in Google and Apple app stores in India after a state court prohibited its downloads, a setback for developer Bytedance Technology’s efforts to tap users in a key market.
TikTok, which allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, is hugely popular in India but some politicians say its content is inappropriate.
A court in southern Tamil Nadu state asked the federal government on April 3 to ban TikTok, saying it encouraged pornography and warning that sexual predators could target child users.
The federal government sent a letter requesting Apple and Google to abide by the state court’s order, according to an IT ministry official.
Google blocked access to TikTok in its Play store in India to comply with the court’s directive, a person with direct knowledge told Reuters on Tuesday. The app was not available in Apple’s app store on Wednesday.
Google said in a statement it does not comment on individual apps but adheres to local laws. Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokesman for TikTok in India declined to comment on the app’s removal, saying the matter was still in the courts.
The company had faith in the judicial system and was “optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by” its millions of users in India, he added.
TikTok had been downloaded more than 240 million times in India, app analytics firm Sensor Tower said in February. More than 30 million users installed the app in January 2019, 12 times more than in the same month last year.
Jokes, clips and footage related to India’s thriving movie industry dominate the app’s platform, along with memes and videos in which youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-sync and dance to popular music.
Bytedance challenged the state court’s ban order in India’s Supreme Court last week, saying it went against freedom of speech rights in India.
The top court had referred the case back to the state court, where a judge on Tuesday rejected Bytedance’s request to put the ban order on hold, K. Neelamegam, a lawyer arguing against Bytedance in the case, said.
The state court has requested written submissions from Bytedance in the case and has scheduled its next hearing for April 24.
Salman Waris, a technology lawyer at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, said the legal action against Bytedance could set a precedent of Indian courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms.
In its Supreme Court filing, Bytedance argued that a “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok content was considered inappropriate or obscene.
The company employs more than 250 people in India and had plans for more investment as it expands the business, it said.


Sri Lanka abusing UN law to make arrests: rights group

Updated 17 June 2019
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Sri Lanka abusing UN law to make arrests: rights group

  • Police attempted to arrest a journalist for his writing on anti-Muslim riots and Buddhist extremists using the UN-backed law
  • Police have also drawn criticism over the detention of a Muslim woman during anti-Muslim riots last month

COLOMBO: Media activists on Monday accused Sri Lankan police of using a UN convention on hate speech to crack down on media freedom and the country’s Muslim minority.
The Free Media Movement rights group said the police Special Task Force (STF) attempted to arrest a respected journalist for his writing on anti-Muslim riots and Buddhist extremists using the UN-backed law.
The STF told a magistrate on Friday they were pursuing freelance writer Kusal Perera under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act.
“The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the attempts to pursue legal action under the provisions of the ICCPR Act and urges all responsible stakeholders to draw their attention to avoid using the law unfairly,” the group said.
Police have also drawn criticism over the detention of a Muslim woman during anti-Muslim riots last month. She was wearing a T-shirt with a print of a ship’s steering wheel which police mistook for the Dharma Chakra, a Buddhist symbol.
The woman was held in remand custody for three weeks before a senior police officer intervened to press for her release.
Award winning author and poet Shakthika Sathkumara has been held since April under the ICCPR act for his work hinting at homosexuality among the Buddhist clergy.
A senior police source told AFP separate investigations had been launched into the three cases.
“We feel that police exceeded their authority in using the ICCPR and we will take action against those responsible,” the officer said, asking not to be named.
The leftist People’s Liberation Front (JVP) party said police have arbitrarily detained several Muslim men and women since the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 258 people.
The suicide bombings on three churches and three hotels were blamed on local Muslim militants.
Anti-Muslim riots after the April 21 bombings left one Muslim man dead and hundreds of Muslim-owned businesses, homes, vehicles and mosques wrecked.
Sri Lankan authorities are very sensitive to perceived insults to Buddhism, the majority religion.
However Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court in 2017 awarded 900,000 rupees ($5,000) in damages to a woman who police detained for four days for having a Buddha tattooed on her arm.