New Delhi: The armed forces had banned or restricted TikTok, WeChat and several other Chinese social media applications, citing security concerns, much before the Narendra Modi government issued a blanket ban on 59 Chinese apps Monday.
Soon after the ban, two central government arms — the Press Information Bureau and MyGoV — deleted their accounts on TikTok, a video sharing platform vastly popular among the youth aged 15 to 25 years in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
Defence sources told ThePrint most social media apps, except for WhatsApp, were already banned or not being used to share any information pertaining to the forces.
However, the sources added, some personnel were believed to be still using apps like TikTok, quite popular among the forces too, even after the ban.
“To this end, regular checks of mobiles at various levels and other exercises are being conducted keeping in view the security of critical information,” a defence source said.
List of banned 89 apps
Defence sources told ThePrint that earlier this month the Army came up with an updated list of 89 applications — many of which were developed in China — to be banned for use by service personnel.
The list included TikTok, WeChat, SHAREit, Zoom, CamScanner, PUBG, Truecaller and even Facebook and Instagram, among others.
“Based on cyber security assessments carried out at various levels quarterly, half yearly and annually, the threat perception is regularly reassessed and new vulnerabilities are highlighted. Updated lists are sent across all commands and units,” a senior Army officer said.
According to the sources, the Army had also mentioned in a communication sent recently that Facebook accounts of all personnel should be deleted, and not just deactivated, by 1 June this year and that people using Facebook or other banned sites after 15 July will be reported.
In 2017, troops posted on the China border had been told to format their smartphones and delete a number of apps that intelligence agencies have found to be detrimental to national security due to possible links to Chinese hackers.
A list of 42 applications, including Truecaller and WeChat, were banned with immediate effect at the time.
ThePrint had earlier reported that the Army had asked officers to consider deactivating their Facebook accounts, and also said that WhatsApp is a vulnerable platform and so should not be used for any official communication, stating that they are a crucial source of collecting intelligence.
Earlier this year, the Navy, too, after a ‘spy ring bust’ last year, banned and restricted 85 applications, including Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, Viber, Tumblr, Reddit and Truecaller.
The IAF, too, will follow a similar list of banned apps and sites, the sources said.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.