TikTok and Helo are accused of unlawful activities in India triggering talks of a possible ban

TikTok and Helo are accused of unlawful activities in India triggering talks of a possible ban
Bytedance mobile apps, TikTok and Helo, are being questioned by the Indian government about their operations in the countryTikTok

  • TikTok and Helo are being questioned by the Indian government over the usage of data from Indian users on the platform.
  • The Bytedance mobile apps have stated that they will “fully collaborate with the Government”.
  • TikTok and Helo have until July 22 to respond to the questionnaire or the government shall ban the apps in India.
TikTok, the short video sharing mobile app, is under threat of being banned in India, yet again, over concerns of data storage. It’s not just TikTok but it’s sister app, Helo as well, that has come under the scanner.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued a questionnaire to both Bytedance apps to address concerns around unlawful activities — and they have until July 22 to respond.

A detailed list of questions is enclosed herewith. You are hereby called upon to submit your response to the questions on or before 22nd July, 2019, failing which government may take necessary action to ban these apps.

Excerpt of letter from government to TikTok and Helo seen by PTI

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In case they don’t respond, the ministry is threatening to take the Helo and TikTok off the shelves, according to PTI.

TikTok and Helo responded to Business Insider India stating, “Our continued success in India will not be possible without the support of our local community. We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the Government to meet and exceed our obligations."

Here’s what’s at stake

In addition to being banned, TikTok and Helo could also face action as per India’s IT Act and other requisite laws for their actions.

The government is alleging that unauthorised data was shared was these apps and used a hub for ‘anti-national’ activities. Helo, in particular, is accused of putting up 11,000 incorrect political ads on its platform.

The ministry has stated that the aim of the survey is to ascertain how much data TikTok and Helo are collecting [data?] from Indian users and whether or not that data is being stored in China.

Bytedance, on the other hand, has always maintained that its data is only stored in the US and Singapore.

TikTok was pulled from India app stores early this year for ‘encouraging pornography’ on its platform. Eventually the ban was lifted with because it impeded free speech.

Since then, TikTok has rolled out a whole host of features to help users be more responsible on the platform. But, that doesn’t address the government’s new concerns around how the app is using data.