New Delhi: Much before the Narendra Modi government banned the hugely popular Chinese video-making app TikTok on 29 June, the Delhi Police wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking a ban on the application, stating that it was being used for spreading “misinformation and propaganda” during the northeast Delhi riots in February this year.
No action was, however, taken at that time.
The file, seeking the ban on TikTok, was sent to the MHA in the beginning of March, sources told ThePrint, adding that it also went to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, but no one acted on it.
“A request was sent to the government after it was found that many people based outside India were using TikTok as a platform to spread misinformation. But no action was taken in that respect,” a source said.
It was only on 29 June, the government banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps amid the stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, stating they were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
The government also said the apps were banned because of concerns of “data security” and to safeguard the “privacy of 130 crore Indians”.
“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern, which requires emergency measures,” said a statement released by the government that time.
The government had used Section 69A of the Information Technology Act to pass the order to ban the use of Chinese applications in India.
ThePrint reached spokespersons of both the MHA and IT Ministry via WhatsApp and phone calls for comments, but there was no response until the publication of this report.
Videos shot in Middle Eastern countries
According to a second source in the security establishment, Delhi Police conveyed to the MHA that many videos showing Muslims being assaulted surfaced on TikTok during the February riots, which were actually shot in Middle Eastern countries, including Dubai.
“Many such videos of Muslim men claiming to be from Maujpur surfaced on TikTok. In the videos, they are saying that the Hindus are burning down their houses, killing them. When we analysed if those videos can be used as evidence, we found that they were actually shot in Dubai,” a senior police officer said.
“This is when we flagged it to the authorities concerned and told them that these videos were clearly being used for propagating coordinated disinformation and fuel sentiments, and relevant action must be taken,” he added.
The police also suggested that the app be banned as it was being used to spread misinformation and was giving a platform to miscreants, who were misusing it.
No action was, however, taken by the ministry and the matter went into cold storage until 29 June, when in the backdrop of Chinese aggression, the file was expedited, the first source told ThePrint.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.