Madras High Court says no more adulteration; TikTok needs to tighten its act
- The video-sharing app has raised global concerns due to cyber crimes against children
- After a suicide due to alleged cyber bullying, the Madras High Court asked the Center to ban TikTok
- The app is reported to be a popular hunting ground from pornographic content and related violations
- The Supreme Court dismissed TikTok’s request of an urgent hearing of its plea against Madras HC’s order
TikTok is a viral sensation among Indian Youth | Credits: ViralJalwa (YouTube)
Video-sharing platform TikTok has found itself in hot waters in India. China’s Bytedance-owned app is viral sensation in not just urban but rural India as well, with over 50 million users.
Bu the Madras High Court directed Center to ban TikTok last week – over concerns about access to pornographic content through it.
Its concerns included a suicide, disturbing content and objectionable behavior induced by the app. The interim order also asked local media not to broadcast any videos shared via TikTok.
Madras High Court said no more adulteration
The court’s decision came in lieu of a PIL (public interest litigation) against the app.
It mentioned a dangerous side to TikTok – inappropriate content reaching minors. The order also observed that pranks on the app could violate privacy.
The Ban was challenged by Tiktok. Supreme Court refused urgent hearing of a plea to overturn the Madras High Court order. It said the hearing will happen in due course of time.
In the weeks leading up to the ban, Tamil Nadu IT Minister M Manikandan said the state would seek the center’s help to ban the app that reportedly misleads children and youth.
A BuzzFeed report in 2018 had observed that US teens were subjected to hateful comments on their TikTok videos. The US passed ‘Children Online Privacy Act’ to prevent children becoming cyber victims.
TikTok had to pay a $5.7 million fine to settle allegations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. That is when it came up with an underage user restriction below 13.
Madras High Court has reached out to the Center to put a stop to TikTok | Credits: Socialnews.xyz
TikTok has faced Global backlash
Tiktok has face a global outrage for its inability to prevent disturbing behavior. The app has taken a reactionary approach, only plugs security gaps after incidents. Children around the world have reportedly become soft targets for perverts through the app.
Tiktok has been banned by Indonesia and Bangladesh governments for failing to check victimization of children.
TikTok is a hot spot for pedophiles and sexual offenders searching for victims | Credits: BBC
‘Fifteen Seconds of Fame’ or Cultural degradation
In the wake of the Madras High Court ruling, a BBC investigation has claimed TikTok has failed to check such lapses even after fines and bans.
The three-month long investigation from BBC Trending found that TikTok had failed to crackdown on the accounts sending explicit messages to teenagers and children.
The probe identified adult users who repeatedly approached teenage girls on the app. The app has been unable to rein on users indulging is such misconduct. While TikTok keeps deleting offensive comments, threatening or violent messages keep reaching children.
The Suicide and Cyber Bullying in Tamil Nadu
The TikTok culture, which allegedly promotes ‘cultural degradation’ and cyber bullying, culminated in the suicide of a 23-year-old man from Tamil Nadu in October 2018 – after being trolled online for dressing up as a woman for one of his TikTok videos.
A 23-year old in Tamil Nadu allegedly committed suicide because of cyber bullying due to a TikTok video he had posted | Credits: Chamky
TikTok has been a prevalent menace in the South Indian state. In December 2018, one distress line counselor reportedly received 36 calls from children being bullied on TikTok.
Protecting Minors – an industry wide challenge
Child protection is an industry wide-challenge in the app world. TikTok also addressed this, and asserted that promoting a ‘safe and positive app environment’ was its top priority. The company said:
“Maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment at TikTok is our priority. We have robust measures to protect users against misuse, protect their privacy and digital well-being,”
It claims to use a combination of technology and human moderation to remove content.
India needs a law not incessant bans
The TikTok fiasco is reminiscent of the Blue Whale Challenge in India.
The suicidal game was plugged from app stores after it claimed the life of a 15-year-old from West Bengal in August 2017. The Blue Whale tragedy woke India up to the horrors of cyber threats on soft targets like children.
The High Court also asked the government its plan to tackle the menace. It suggested introduction of a law similar to the US’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Discussions about children’s safety on the internet are needed. Banning apps like TikTok doesn’t address the core issue that children are increasingly being targeted by apps. Such a solution will need coming together of the government, tech companies, and parents.
TikTok reached out to the Supreme Court
TikTok reached the Supreme Court and contends that it’s only an intermediary under the IT Act. The actions it is being held liable for are third parties’ actions on its platform. As a passive provider of technology TikTok says it performs functions relating to storage or processing of electronic record without any direct involvement in content generation.
It argues that Section 79 of the IT Act exempts intermediaries from liability for actions of third parties provided the intermediary has complied with the conditions laid down by the law.
ByteDance’s attorney A M Singhvi stated that TikTok has over billion downloads and the Madurai bench of Madras High Court’s order is ex-parte.
Internet Freedom Foundation, a cyberlaw organization IFF said ‘banning an app and prohibiting will be a clear case of overreach.’
Hate the recent, “App bans”? Play PUBG, love TikTok Join IFF’s mission to protect your digital rights. Become a member. TODAY! https://t.co/HYJIJBakov
— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) April 19, 2019
And says it has taken steps for revocation of the Ban
The plea states TikTok has complied with all the legal requirements and implemented industry standard solutions to address problems relating to pornography and illegal behavior.
Is India ready to see the back of TikTok?
As per a recent survey by news app InShorts of 30,000 youngsters from from Tier II and III cities, India has no qualms to see TikTok go.
When asked whether TikTok should be banned, 80 per cent of the respondents said YES.
- Banned and fined world over TikTok has failed to address the issue of objectionable content to minors through the app
- A BBC-led investigation found out that the app was failing to rein on adult users targeting teenage girls
- Parents are concerned over pornographic content reaching their kin through the app which is a rage among youngsters
- But instead of incessant bans, India needs a set of laws to protect minors against cyber crimes induced by such apps