Banned for hosting porn, TikTok cites damage to free speech in its appeal to India’s Supreme Court

After being barred in China and Bangladesh, TikTok is facing a nation wide ban in India after being blocked in the south Indian state of Tamil NaduFacebook/TikTok


  • ByteDance, TikTok’s publisher, is fighting the ban against the app stating that it will only hurt the civil right to free speech.
  • TikTok is currently banned in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu for ‘encouring pornography’.
  • But, pornography on social networking platforms is an industry wide problem that other companies — like WhatsApp and Instagram — are also struggling with.
ByteDance, the Chinese publisher behind turning musical.ly into TikTok, is fighting the ban imposed by the Madras High Court in India’s apex judicial institution, the Supreme Court.

In petitioning for the ban to be quashed, the mobile app publisher states that ban “amounts to curtailing of the rights of the citizens of India” as per a court filing seen by Reuters.

The plea will be presented in the Supreme Court on April 15 in front of a judicial bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The court had earlier refused the ‘urgent listing’ of the same plea on April 8.

About 39% of the video streaming platform’s 500 million users are from India, most of them between the ages of 16 to 24. Keeping that demographic in mind, the public interest litigation (PIL) filed against TikTok alleged that some of the content on the platform was leaving children vulnerable to sexual predators and encouraging paedophiles.

Subsequently, South Indian state of Tamil Nadu issued an interim order to bar any downloads of the mobile app citing that the social network was responsible for ‘ encouraging pornography’. The interim order also bans TikTok videos from being shared by media outlets and wants a response from the Central Government around whether or not they will bring in a law similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Action (COPPA) in the US before April 16.

We fully comply with the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.... In order to better coordinate with the law enforcement agencies, we have appointed a Chief Nodal Officer based out of India.

TikTok’s response to the ban in Tamil Nadu

An investigation by the BBC found that hundreds of sexual comments and videos were being shared on TikTok by teenagers and children. And, while the company deleted most of the comments — most of the users are still on the platform despite TikTok’s own regulations against sexual content directed at children.

That being said, pornography on social networks in India is an industry wide issue that isn’t specific to TikTok. In fact, banning TikTok will probably only make users shift to other platforms that have the same functionality as there is no dearth of option in the mobile app market.

For instance, Instagram — the popular photo sharing app — has been pointed out for facilitating sexual solicitation. And, WhatsApp groups have become the new safe haven for child pornography after India implemented a nationwide porn ban on website that were allegedly hosting indecent videos with underage participants. An investigation by AntiToxin Technologies, an Israeli online safety startup, found that hundreds of videos were being shared globally under the cloak of the platform’s end-to-end encryption.

TikTok is the second Chinese mobile app with a large Indian user base to face problems in India after the battle royale game, PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds was banned in various districts of Gujarat.

And, India isn’t the only country calling for a ban on TikTok. The video sharing mobile app has already been banned in China, Indonesia (now repealed) as well as in India’s own neighbor, Bangladesh.

See also:
An Indian court has banned TikTok for ‘encouraging pornography’

Faced with ban threats, PUBG is trying to placate Indian parents and the government

Teens are getting arrested for playing PUBG in India
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