New Delhi: Chinese app Vigo, a video social media portal viral in India’s hinterland, has come into headlines with one of its local stars allegedly going missing.
Pratima Mondal, 21, known as Jasmine on Vigo, has 4 lakh followers on the app. The West Bengal native was reported missing by her husband earlier this month after she allegedly went off the radar during a trip to Delhi for a Vigo event.
Mondal, however, challenged the claim in a TV interview last week, where she blamed her husband Prasenjit for forcing her to make Vigo videos.
The entire controversy has brought to light the popularity of an app that has over 20 million users worldwide and affords its content producers a chance to make money.
Vigo was launched by Chinese company ByteDance, which also owns Tiktok, another popular video app with 120 million active users. It was introduced in 2017 as ‘Hipster’ but renamed Vigo.
ByteDance has a total user base of 250-300 million, out of which 50 million are active on its Helo app in any particular month.
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In India, Tiktok and Vigo have been known to be particularly popular in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.
“Vigo Video resonates with ‘real’ India, connecting users with stories from their daily lives. With regional content gaining prominence and creators using regional dialects to create content, users from Tier-2 and 3 cities have had a strong connection with the platform,” a Vigo spokesperson said.
Users are rewarded via campaigns that reward them with “digital tokens” and prizes like ‘Vigo Beauty Queen’. On 4 January 2020, for example, Vigo organised a four-hour “Go Vigo” festival in Kolkata where more than 300 leading content creators assembled.
The content stands testimony to its hinterland appeal — some examples include a Hyderabad-based peasant couple dancing to the tunes of Bollywood songs, and a cow and an ox from a gaushala (cowshed) in Ajmer, filmed by their caretakers, and a teenage girl from Hyderabad performing hip-hop dance amid a flock of sheep and goats.
There are also purported videos of soldiers in far-flung postings singing patriotic songs and wielding guns, housewives in seemingly sensual performances, and suggestive ones of couples who appear to be newlyweds.
There are more disturbing trends too — from child labourers working in brick kilns seen saying hello with a smile, to compromising videos of stranger women that are clearly shot furtively.
Asked about these trends, the Vigo spokesperson said “promoting a positive in-app environment where users feel safe and comfortable is our top priority”.
“We have robust and stringent community guidelines that do not tolerate objectionable content and also help people understand how to use the platform in a positive way,” the spokesperson added.
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