New Delhi: BJP MP from Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi posted a letter on Twitter Friday, slamming TikTok India for allegedly refusing to take a firm stance against videos depicting animal cruelty.
In her letter, which was mailed on 21 May to Mohit Bansal, TikTok’s public policy head in India, Gandhi accused the platform of showing “no intention” of following the government’s orders on videos depicting animal cruelty.
Gandhi’s email came after “he (Bansal) simply refused to take down accounts of users who have been posting graphic videos of violence towards animals”.
“We were just asked to ‘appeal’ to users (on TikTok) to not do so,” she wrote on Twitter.
Talking to ThePrint, she said: “Why should I do it? I want to see action. He (Bansal) tells me that from the beginning our company policy is intolerant to violence. If it is intolerant, then why am I seeing such videos?”
A TikTok spokesperson, who did not wish to be identified, told ThePrint, “As we make clear in our community guidelines, we do not allow content that encourages, promotes or depicts animal cruelty. The behaviour in question is a violation of our guidelines and we will continue to take down such content from our platform. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in sharing content online.”
‘Working for India or China?’
Gandhi, an animal activist, said such videos depicting animal cruelty weren’t the only objectionable content on TikTok.
“These videos showing gratuitous violence are not the only things on TikTok. There were advertisements for the sale of dogs and cats which is illegal, dog fights, cock fights. And earlier there were also videos of people saying that Covid-19 spreads through animals, which the platform has taken down,” Gandhi told ThePrint.
In the email, Gandhi asked if the company was working for China. “This is not acceptable. I want a better and firmer commitment immediately, and I need to see it in action,” she wrote.
My response to the head of TikTok India after he simply refused to take down accounts of users who have been posting graphic videos of violence towards animals or share their details so they could be handed to the authorities. We were just asked to “appeal” to users to not do so. pic.twitter.com/BbXyfdPykL
— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) May 22, 2020
TikTok sent an email, accessed by ThePrint, to Gandhi Friday night, saying the impugned videos depicting animal cruelty had been taken down.
Gandhi, however, replied back, saying the action was not enough as they had simply removed the videos and not suspended the accounts that uploaded them.
“This letter is an eyewash. I have specifically told you to bring out a strong message on TikTok itself that anyone uploading violent content will have his/her account removed and the name/address given to the authorities,” according to Gandhi’s email, seen by ThePrint.
She further wrote TikTok had made a “mockery” of Indian law with its arrogance.
I&B ministry’s letter to TikTok
Gandhi told ThePrint she first wrote an email to Bansal earlier this month in which she had asked for removal of all videos depicting animal cruelty and handing over details of users who posted them to the authorities concerned. She also asked for suspension of the accounts of such users.
She told ThePrint she didn’t get any response to her email, following which she had a conversation with Bansal and his response wasn’t “satisfactory”.
Then on 14 May, Gandhi wrote an email to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, asking them to speak to Bansal and order the removal of videos showing animal cruelty. The I&B ministry subsequently sent an email to Bansal on 20 May, asking him to take suitable action against such videos and also advise users to refrain from uploading them.
Sources in the I&B ministry said while the matter was not in the ministry’s domain and should have been taken up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, it had intervened because the case involved problematic “content”.
Bansal responded to the I&B ministry’s email on 21 May and also emailed Gandhi the same day. Both emails have been accessed by ThePrint.
He told the ministry all videos in question had been removed, and requested Gandhi to come on TikTok and appeal against animal cruelty. It was this appeal that prompted Gandhi to slam TikTok for not following the government’s orders.
‘Over 100 clips showing animal cruelty’
On 21 May, Gandhi wrote another email to the I&B ministry, a copy of which is with ThePrint, saying its response to Bansal was not strong enough and that simply advising it would not work and strict orders needed to be given to stop such content.
In the email, she also said she received over 100 videos showing animal cruelty in the past three months.
The MP told ThePrint people from across the country have been sending her videos of animal cruelty that were uploaded on TikTok.
Detailing some of the clips, Gandhi said there was one video in which a cat was being hung to death and another where a dog, whose mouth was tied, was thrown into a drain and every time he tried to come out, people threw stones at him.
Another video from Bhopal showed a dog being hung from the stairs, while another showed people placing heavy chains on a dog and forcing it to walk. She also spoke about one video showing some women in high heels stomping on a dog.
“People posting these videos are losers, who will do anything to get famous,” said Gandhi.