Google and Apple have blocked downloads of the video-sharing app TikTok in India in compliance with the Madras High Court order, which said the app encouraged pornography and potentially puts children on target of sexual predators. Until February, TikTok had been downloaded more than 240 million times across India.
ThePrint asks: Google, Apple stop TikTok downloads: Is HC order quashing small town India’s creative joy?
TikTok ban part elitism, part moral hijack — but mostly an old generation telling what’s acceptable
Columnist, author and brand historian
There is definitely a unique imagination of the people of small-town India that the TikTok app helped unleash. A mass participative form of creativity, seen in tandem with people’s reaction to it, shows how the platform was an entirely fresh avenue for many.
Usage of popular references in the videos helped construct interesting little vignettes.
To see the TikTok app only through the lens of some of the objectionable contents that find their way into it, is myopic. Apart from the fact that I don’t think it’s a particularly effective order, the Madras high court’s ruling asking Google and Apple to stop further downloads also reeks of the idea that older people from another generation get to curb what is essentially the creative pursuit of the current, younger generation.
Frankly, I cannot fathom why the high court should step in and take such heavy-handed action.
There is also a sense of being fearful of, and looking down upon, a form of art that we don’t understand. This is why TikTok videos are also ridiculed. Thus, overall, it is part elitism, part an older generation trying to reign in a younger one. And then it is also partly a patronising and moralistic attitude that wants to establish what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Even if only a few, pornographic videos on TikTok imply misuse, which amounts to illegality
The Madras High Court was completely right in its order banning the downloads of TikTok app. The problem is, often times, orders of these kinds are barely implemented and enforced. It is a surprise that Google and Apple have actually stopped the downloads of TikTok app.
Multiple laws in the Indian legal system make it abundantly clear that any medium spreading pornography needs to be banned. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67B of the Information Technology Act are two of the prominent ones.
‘Obscenity’ is too mild a term to describe the kind of content that ends up being created through these apps, and other mediums. Often times, prurient and lascivious content is made only in order to increase viewership. Increased viewership would mean more advertisements, and ultimately it boils down to that.
Even if most of the videos on apps like TikTok aren’t objectionable in nature, the ones that are pornographic imply misuse of the app. This is misuse amounting to illegality, and so it must be taken to task. Even children become vulnerable to these apps.
The high court should pursue its orders strictly to the point that it ensures that any content on the Internet that defies its order is removed.
Approach to a suicide-inducing Blue Whale Challenge game and a video-sharing TikTok app can’t be same
Founder, Digital Empowerment Foundation
TikTok is a very recent addition to the world of mobile Internet and, largely, a millennial phenomenon. An extremely popular application in India, TikTok — unlike Dubsmash — was able to trickle down and reach even Tier III cities or urban slums of Tier I cities. It has even reached those in India who largely rely on oral communication and cannot read or write a script. TikTok truly became a source of harmless entertainment for millions.
However, the entertainment application now faces a ban in India on the accusation that it inadvertently promotes pornography, suicides and accidents. It seems like we are missing the point once again. India’s approach to problems arising out of technology has usually been handled with a knee-jerk reaction rather than an informed act of problem solving.
Our approach to a game like Blue Whale Challenge (which wanted people to attempt suicide) and TikTok (which purely wants to provide some homegrown entertainment to people) cannot be the same. You don’t ban selfies because a few people fell of the cliff while trying to get the best holiday picture, then why ban TikTok? The solution could lie in a disclaimer that tells people to be more careful while using the app. Something like what you see as a ticker when watching ThumsUp advertisements.
Ban may push users to download TikTok from unsafe sources, creating new surface for malware to attack
Product Head, m56 Studios
TikTok is not a small-town-India app. It is an all-India app. Airline crew, dancers, comedians, models, homemakers and students have all found audience on TikTok. It is their collective creative joy.
Some use it as a creative outlet. Others see it as a way to gain vast numbers of followers, and by extension, further their careers. Just like Instagram.
That said, the Madras high court’s order does not make sense. There is enough content, (the kind which I’m sure the HC would find objectionable), available on encrypted messaging apps and other entertainment apps. Why single out the biggest one? Bear in mind, that the biggest one would be the most willing to set up armies of people for content moderation.
There are unseen implications too. Certain apps facilitate APK (Android application package) sharing. So, users won’t have a problem installing TikTok. But they might download from unsafe sources, thus creating a new, massive attack surface for malware.
Popular apps these days leverage algorithmic content discovery, viral effects and fame-seeking. They have major implications on culture and social fabric. That’s an impact worth understanding. Banning one (very well executed) app isn’t going to help.
For a society divided on so many aspects, TikTok turned out to be a great leveller
Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms did not provide a comfortable space for rural and small-town India. And then TikTok entered into their lives two years ago. From 80-year-old grandmother to a two-month-old child, people of all age and group flocked to the app.
During my interaction with several homemakers, I learnt that TikTok was a great app to pass afternoons and make funny videos. TikTok became a revolutionary platform for the labour class as well. And then there are people who believe they resemble Bollywood celebrities suddenly finding new fan following. Now, anyone could have his/her own five Ajay Devgns, four Shah Rukh Khans, two Rekhas and a Bobby Deol on TikTok.
The society which mocks women for their looks has had to deal with this app. Because it has broken all notions of beauty and acceptance. You could also find on TikTok from a poor tea seller to a Mercedes-owning rich person lip syncing to the same lyrics. This app rises above genders, races, religion, region and castes, and unites people on only one thing – raw and uninhibited innocent fun.
The most funny and creative videos come from the hinterland. People make videos with their buffaloes and cows. Middle- and old-aged couples now have the opportunity to fill their lives with romance. They probably did not get space to sing ‘Tu, tu hai wahi’ in their initial years after marriage. Now, on TikTok, they are breaking the Internet with their innocence.
By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.