Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban
Roposo, an Indian video-sharing social media app similar to TikTok that been around since 2014, saw its user base jump by 22 million in the two days. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban
  • Ban follows a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site
  • With 200 million Indians users, TikTok a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene

NEW DELHI: Indian tech and entertainment firms are looking to capitalize on sudden opportunities arising from a government ban on Chinese owned apps, including the wildly popular TikTok, with one rival video app saying it had added 22 million users in 48 hours. India this week outlawed 59 Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat, in what was described as a “digital strike” against China by the country’s technology minister.
The move followed a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
With 200 million Indians users, TikTok, which features a simple user interface, background music options and various special effects, was a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene and the ban left its fans scrambling for options.
Roposo, an Indian video-sharing social media app similar to TikTok that been around since 2014, saw its user base jump by 22 million in the two days after India banned the Chinese apps, the company’s founder Mayank Bhangadia told Reuters.
“In the last few days I’ve slept for a total of five hours, and it’s the same for our entire team,” Bhangadia said. “The load is so much and we’re just ensuring that the experience is as smooth as possible.”
Roposo’s downloads on Google’s Android now total over 80 million, and Bhangadia expects that to reach 100 million in just a few days. Before the ban, Roposo had roughly 50 million installs on Android devices, which account for a bulk of India’s nearly 500 million smartphones.
Based in the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, the company has just 200 staff now but is planning to hire as many as 10,000 people over the next two years and may take the app global, Bhangadia said.
Other home-grown TikTok alternatives such as Chingari and Mitron are also finding favor with users, with many taking to social media to echo Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for “atma-nirbhar” or self-reliant India.
MyGov, the federal government’s citizen engagement website, last month created its account on Roposo.
“We have to create our own ecosystem, every country has done this, this is our atma-nirbhar program,” said a government minister.
New players are also jumping into the fray. Mumbai-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises is set to launch an ad-supported, short-video platform, named HiPi, in the next two months, Rajneel Kumar, the product head for its digital unit Zee5 said.
He hoped that former TikTok users would “find a home within Hipi to be able to continue to enjoy the content they enjoyed.”


Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’
Updated 15 January 2021

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’

Hong Kong censorship debate grows as Internet firm says can block ‘illegal acts’
HONG KONG: The company which approves Internet domains in Hong Kong said it will now reject any sites that could incite “illegal acts,” raising new concerns about freedoms after Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on the Chinese-ruled city last year.
Holders of .hk domains were advised of the policy change late on Thursday, sources told Reuters, hours after Internet service provider Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) said it had blocked access to HKChronicles, a website offering information about anti-government protests.
The moves came just days after the arrest of over 50 pro-democracy activists, and sources have told Reuters that China is planning a further crackdown.
HKBN said it had blocked the website, which also publishes personal information on Hong Kong police officers, in compliance with the national security law, the first such censorship in the city of its kind.
Anti-government protests in 2019 relied heavily on social media channels like Telegram which allowed protesters to organize anonymously. Many sites also sprung up in support of the protest movement, though a number shut after the passage of the security law.
In the emails, the Hong Kong Domain Name Registration Company (HKDNR) alerted holders of .hk domains to the new “acceptable use” policy by its parent, Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited (HKIRC), which goes into effect on Jan. 28, according to copies shared by recipients with Reuters.
It said it could reject applications for new .hk sites that it believes could incite criminal acts, abuse privacy or provide false or misleading information.
It was not immediately clear whether the policy will apply to existing .hk websites. The HKIRC, the HKDNR and the Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The rollout of the acceptable use policy is quite worrying,” said one website operator who declined to be identified, citing fear of repercussions.
“Things like providing false or misleading information, who are they to decide? Are these preventive measures for future false news regulations?“
The moves are fueling worries that a censorship mechanism similar to China’s “Great Firewall” is being put in place in Hong Kong.
While the Internet in mainland China is heavily censored and access to many foreign platforms like news sites is blocked, residents in Hong Kong have so far enjoyed greater freedoms under the “one country, two systems” framework that it was promised when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
China Mobile and PCCW, the other major Internet providers in Hong Kong, did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Wong Ho Wah, who is running for Hong Kong’s legislature to representing the information technology sector, said he was deeply worried that Hong Kongers’ freedom to access information on the Internet was starting to be affected.
“The government has the responsibility to explain the justification and the rationale of the action,” he said, referring to the blocking of HKChronicles’ website.