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Can we hold TikTok responsible for the spread of pornography in India?

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TikTok, the 15-second video sharing app, has come under the scanner for ‘spreading pornography’. The Madras High Court recently asked the Centre to ban the popular Chinese app for encouraging pornographic content.

ThePrint asks: Can we hold TikTok responsible for the spread of pornography in India?

If Snapchat can grow out of its sexting app reputation with policy changes, so can TikTok

Sharanya Munsi
Web editor, ThePrint

Responsibility in video sharing apps like TikTok and Snapchat is placed at two levels – a personal level where the user is vigilant of the video he or she is uploading, and the company level, where the platform has to be vigilant about videos being uploaded.

Personal vigilantism about whether or not the videos uploaded by you can be vulnerable to pornography comes only with awareness. This realisation comes about if parents, schools and social groups are pro-active and alert children early in life about the risky side of the internet. An aware child or adult is always less likely to fall prey.

Accountability is another form of making TikTok responsible for its content. AI detecting content of pornographic nature can also help.

While it may seem like TikTok’s user interface is aiding users to upload pornographic content, let us not forget that these negative aspects of video apps don’t last long and the key to this lies in the development of the app over time. One prime example of this is Snapchat that initially was notorious for allowing people to send nudes, but soon grew out of that phase and with stricter privacy policies. Its editorial regulation on its ‘Discover’ channels requires publishers to not post nude or semi-nude photos. TikTok may dodge this form of policy adjustment for now, but it will eventually have to be held responsible as it grows globally.

Too early to hold TikTok responsible for spread of pornography in India

Jyoti Yadav
Reporter, ThePrint

The Madras High Court has asked the Centre to ban the TikTok app for spreading pornography. But it will too early to hold TikTok responsible for the spread of pornography in India. Pornsites like PornHub, X-Videos rule the market of pornographic content. In fact, PornHub’s survey once revealed that India was among its biggest users.

Further, vulgar videos shot on mobile phones are also in demand and so are the terrifying ‘rape videos’. Voyeurism has increased after small cameras and cheap mobile phones have occupied the market.

TikTok looks feeble in comparison to these formidable websites and applications. Rather than pornography, TikTok serves the purpose of having fun in your own body and voice, wherever you are. Yes, if there is a camera and internet on the phone, there is a possibility of pornographic content being generated. Still, it will be too early to hold TikTok responsible for all of it.

Most importantly, why fear pornography? The government can encourage healthy discussion and dissemination of knowledge about sex through these apps.

Also read: Coy and in ‘ghoonghats’, these women are taking over Youtube, TikTok with their rural lives

Such moves undermine people’s right to create and operate legitimate business enterprises

Achyut Mishra
Journalist, ThePrint

As technology has evolved, the collective IQ of our society has degenerated. Nothing exemplifies it better than TikTok (and maybe the selfie-obsessed youth present everywhere).

However, holding TikTok responsible for the spread of pornography is nothing but false equivalence. Just because something is risqué doesn’t imply that it can be classified as porn. Such a suggestion itself represents a case of cultural degeneration. It not only curtails people’s freedom to express themselves, but also legitimises the presence of self-proclaimed cultural vigilantes. In fact, it also undermines people’s right to create and operate legitimate business enterprises.

In the era of the internet, pornography is a reality. It’s not as if it suddenly emerged on the scene after TikTok. The sooner we accept that some things should only be regulated and not suppressed, the better off we will be.

Businesses are rational entities that while valuing profit-maximisation prefer to operate within the confines of the law. If it has been observed that a platform like TikTok may expose very young children to indecent content, then mechanisms should be developed in collaboration with the company to guard against such possibilities.

Making sweeping generalisations and picking up moral cudgels is not the answer.

Child pornography is circulated on YouTube, WhatsApp & porn sites. Will be silly to hold just TikTok guilty

Regina Mihindukulasuriya
Reporter, ThePrint

We cannot hold one single medium like TikTok responsible for the spread of pornography in India, because it is not the only medium through which objectionable content is disseminated. Child pornography is circulated on WhatsApp, teenagers share nude selfies on Instagram, there are ‘sexual’ videos on YouTube, porn websites like PornHub and xHamster.

It will be extremely silly to hold one app responsible for it.

The second silly thing to happen is that on 3 April Madras High Court asked the Centre to ban TikTok saying it encourages pornography.

I wonder how many of these policy and lawmakers have used TikTok personally before coming to such a decision. I have seen a few risqué dance moves and revealing outfits, but have not seen anything that qualifies as pornographic. I’m sure there are unfortunate instances where TikTok has been misused by an individual as reported in the media, but objectionable content is a problem most platforms deal with – not just TikTok.

Instead of calling for bans (which is a slippery slope leading to muzzling freedom of speech), let’s set up effective regulations and encourage responsible use of the internet and these apps — because TikTok is but a tool in the hands of a human user wielding it.

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  1. Jio level up our standard of living by providing low cost services that help in development of indians how many u r watching videos of knowledge on carrer network there is one drawback only very low percent of parents are educated now they gave smartphones to their children without check and balance upon their here is the mistake i am only 16th year old


  3. #Regina Mihindukulasuriya, she is right that not only Tik Tok are responsible for these types of videos, #Vigo ,#Like , #Instagram this apps also spread pornography… and I think most uploaded sites like YouTube are use to tight process to uploading videos from user… Its ask more detail uploading any content…

  4. I don’t think we should blame tik tok for it…. It would be sad if we blame any app…. The generation now-a-days only has to be blame….. You just can’t blame any social media app in case of pornography….. The right one knows how to use social media….. They are those people who have brains but still act as they don’t brain only…. So it would be shameful to blame any app…!!!!!

    • No we blame tik tok not only for spreading pornography because children and youths are using tik tok without any break like pubg it effect on their future

  5. All these so called journalists who are defending TIktok, are probably paid off by Tiktok to say such things. I don’t know about pornography stuff but the communal stuff that Tiktok is spreading is there for everyone to see. There are just so many religious videos of muslims boys standing in mosque reciting prayers that it makes you think, whether this app is for promotion of Islam or for entertainment.

  6. Shit in brains has entered.more the cheap more it spreads.sapna choudhary,kapil Sharma national legends.forget class think cheap

  7. To all the journalist and web editors who think tiktok is not the only culprit… are right.we the people of India are culprit. Tiktok is just ‘c’ grade app. It represent has made young generation sick. Whole country is indulge in this devar bhabhi jokes/acts. Look like their prime aim is “BOLLYWOOD”.don’t no why such respect is given to Bollywood in our country.kapil Sharma,Sapna chaudhary are idols today.forget sir attenborough,forget gulzar,forget gurudut
    Each and everyone is socially active on various platforms but no time to read or study socialist like Marx or Weber.

  8. Well I guess this is what they can come up with to stop the planet from consuming itself. I am in my 20’s and I feel doomed when i see The so called superstar’s of tik tok. I believe they should not only ban this app but also make sure that it’s traces are also deleted. Although it has helped us to know the reality and the type of problem we have to deal in our society and we should really think about the way we are progressing instead of just giving up to consumerism we should do a through study and research about the pros and cons of the steps we are taking towards modernity.

  9. No TikTok is not responsible at all.. The problem is with users.. For example on instagram a normal picture hardly gets noticed, but a bikini picture get a lot of hearts.. So users in order to get more followers and views do what they think would get them likes.. It’s simple as that..

  10. Just define and enforce age limits on the platform, that is all. I am not sure what the court defines as ‘pornography’. Is it just risqué content? If so, users over 18 have the right to do so. In a way, it also makes society less judgemental of ‘revealing’ attire, which is good.

  11. Tiktok is not responsible for pornography it shouldn’t be banned and of it’s the prblm with children then it’s the parents who are responsible for it

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