BAN SAYS YES TO TIKTOK TIKTOK
“The future of youngsters and mind-set of children are spoiled” Madras High Court ban on mobile app TIKTOK. On 3rd April, 2019, the Madras High Court has passed an order to prohibit the download and the use of popular mobile video-sharing app, TIKTOK. Sitting at the Madurai Bench, Justices N. Kirubakaran and S S Sundar passed an interim order to this effect.
WHAT IS TIKTOK?
TIKTOK also known as Douyin, literally meaning vibrating sound in China, is a media app for creating and sharing short videos. Owned by ByteDance, the media app was launched as Douyin in China in September 2016 and introduced into the overseas market one year later as TIKTOK. It is a leading short video platform in Asia, US, other parts of the world. In 2018, the application gained popularity and became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018.
As of 2018 it is available in over 150 markets, in 75 languages. The application allows users to create short music videos of 3-15 seconds and short looping videos of 3-60 seconds. In july 2018, the app had more than 500 million users and in November 2018 more than 800 million users globally.
To create a music video with the app, users can choose BGM from a wide variety of music genres edit with a filter and record a video with speed adjustments, before uploading to share with others on TIKTOK or other social platforms. The app allows users to set their accounts as “private”.
TIKTOK employs artificial intelligence, to analyse the users’ interests and preferences through their interactions with the content and display a personalized content feed to each user.
Journalists in several countries have raised privacy concerns about the app, because it is popular with children, because it may expose them to sexual predators. It has also been reported of endemic cyberbullying including racist and anti-Semitic abuse. TIKTOK can become addictive users may find it hard to stop using the app.
It is important to know that in JULY 2018, INDONESIA, banned TIKTOK, after it has been accused it of promulgating “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy” but it was lifted in the same month.
In February 2019, several Indian politicians called for TIKTOK to be banned or more tightly regulated, after concerns emerged about sexually exploited content, cyberbullying and deep fakes.
What were the instructions issued by the Court to this effect?
· The Government is directed to prohibit downloading of TIKTOK Mobile app.
· The media is prohibited from telecasting the videos made using TIKTOK Mobile app.
· The Government has to answer whether the Union of India will enact a statute, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted by the United States, to prevent the children becoming cyber/online victims?
The Court passed the order after expressing concern that the app hosts inappropriate content, including pornography, which is available for access to children. The Bench has also expressed its consternation that MINORS are also exposed to strangers online through TIKTOK.
“Majority of the teens are playing pranks, gaffing around with duet videos sharing with split screen to the strangers. The children who use the said application are vulnerable and may expose them to sexual predators…. without understanding the dangers involved in these kinds of Mobile Apps….it is unfortunate that our children are testing these Apps”.
Owing to such concerns, the App has also been banned in certain foreign countries such as Indonesia and Bangladesh, notes the order. The fact there are reports of videos of third parties being uploaded on the App with their consent also entails a violation of the right to privacy. When such concerns are at play, the Court has opined that the dangerous consequences flowing from the use of TIKTOK, cannot be downplayed.
“…. nobody can be pranked or shocked or being made as a subject of mockery by any third party and it would amount to violation of the privacy. It is said that TIKTOK App, is mostly played by the teenagers and young people and it has proved to be an addictive one.
By becoming addicted to TIKTOK App and similar Apps, or cyber games, the future of the youngsters and mind-set of the children are spoiled”.
Owing to such apprehensions, the Court highlights that the US has already passed the Children Online Privacy Act, to guard against the cyberbullying or minors. The Bench has suggested that the Indian Government also enact a similar legislation.
“In fact, understanding the vulnerability of the children in the cyber space, the United States of America has passed a Statue called “Children Online Privacy Act”, to prevent the children becoming cyber victims. Such an Act, is necessary in our Country also, as more offences against women and children are reported everyday using Cyber space.
Mainly, the Cyber-crimes are committed taking advantage of the unanimity of the person and the place from where it is committed. Every day, the Cyber-crimesincluding economic crimes are increasing and even, the security of our Country is also threatened”.
The Court goes on to remark that the Government ought to have introduced such measures earlier on, especially after the furore caused by the BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE. It has emphasised that the Government has the SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to act in such circumstances.
“Even after that (the BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE), the officials have not learnt that they should be alert with regard to these types of problems. Only when the officials and policy makers are alive to the problems of the society, decision could be taken to prevent this kind of Cyber applications.
The people are making cruel humour against innocent third parties. Even Television Channels are also telecasting TIKTOK videos, which are liable to be prohibited”.
LET US HOPE THAT SENSE PREVAIL FOR THIS TIKTOK TO BE BANNED FOREVER, BY INTRODUCING THE CHILDREN ONLINE PRIVACY ACT, SO THAT MANY YOUNGSTERS AND CHILDREN CAN BE SAVED FROM SUCH MOBILE APP ADDICTION FOR A BETTER FUTURE!!!!
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, ADVOCAE & SOCIAL ACTIVIST.