Amid ban, TikTok shares info on compliance with new rules
Short video streaming mobile application TikTok has informed the Union ministry of electronics and information technology that they have complied with the controversial new social media and intermediary guidelines even as the app continues to be banned in India, people familiar with the matter said.
“In a communication sent to the ministry, TikTok has stated that it has complied with the new guidelines,” a person familiar with the matter said. The person added that the communication was sent as part of a “regular communication” with the ministry.
A ministry official familiar with the matter said that it was a good thing that the company was complying with the guidelines but it was unlikely to affect the ban. “The ban was imposed for a different reason,” the official said. “It is good that the company is complying but the ban is a separate issue.” The official added that TikTok was not among the significant social media intermediaries, which have 50 lakh users or above, that was asked to share compliance details.
A TikTok spokesperson said that the company looks forward to engaging with the government and returning to India. ”TikTok remains fully committed to the Indian market. We have always worked to comply with the law and look forward to engaging with the government about returning to India and again providing a joyful platform to our millions of creators and users,” the spokesperson said.
The government is facing pushback against the new guidelines that direct companies such Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook to regulate content, appoint officers who will be liable for compliance, and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.
Twitter was the third company to express concerns with the rules. WhatsApp sued the Union electronics and technology ministry over the new rules in Delhi high court on Wednesday, and Facebook on Tuesday said there were “a few of issues (that) need more engagement with the government”. It became the seventh party to challenge the rules in court.
Meanwhile, TikTok was among the 250 apps, mostly of Chinese origin, banned by India in the aftermath of the clashes with China in the Galwan sector in June last year. The government banned the application in three tranches stating that they posed a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country. “(The apps are) prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the government had said. TikTok was part of the first ban that the government implemented, wherein 59 apps were taken down.
Union information and technology minister Ravi Shanker Prasad called the ban a “digital strike” on China.
The government was particularly concerned that the apps, which included the popular game PUBG, could be compromising the data of Indian users, Hindustan Times reported on June 30. Officials said that the apps were reported for “leaking data”. “All these apps have been reported to have been leaking data. Their malpractices have also been singled out by experts. They have been said to take location data, transfer files to servers in China,” an official had said then.
The Ministry invoked its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 118 mobile apps ‘since in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order’.
The ministry had said that the move “will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”.