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Government Seeks Reply From TikTok, Asks to Answer Queries or Face Ban

In April this year, the Madras High Court had passed an interim order banning TikTok citing inappropriate and pornographic content. The ban was subsequently lifted

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TikTok
The company's music streaming service is expected to be priced lower than the $10. VOA

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has sought response from controversial social media apps TikTok and Helo on a set of questions, ranging from whether the apps are considering storing data within India and what measures they were taking to prevent users below age 18 from getting exposed to potentially dangerous content.

The social media platforms have time till July 22 to reply to the questions or face ban in the country, according to sources.

The notice was sent to the operators of the apps on Wednesday after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) economic wing Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) sent a letter to the Prime Minister, alleging that these social media platforms were being used for anti-national activities.

The IT Ministry asked what data from users in India are being collected by these platforms.

It also sought clarifications on allegations that the Helo app had paid a huge sum for putting 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media platforms.

One particular focus of the questions were around the security of users below age 18. Specifically, it asked what was the rationale behind the minimum age limit (13) to use TikTok in India when “a person below 18 is considered as child in the country”.

TikTok
The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

TikTok introduced “age gate” to restrict children from using the app. The ministry asked whether this age gate mechanism restricts users below age 18.

In a statement shared with IANS, TikTok said it welcomes the “opportunity to fully collaborate with the government to meet and exceed our obligations”.

“India is one of our strongest markets and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 Indian languages,” TikTok said in a statement.

“In line with our commitment to India, we are investing $1 billion in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program which we are proud to be assisting with already,” said the short-video-sharing app owned by Chinese start-up ByteDance.

Also Read: Samsung Refreshes its Galaxy A Series in India

The operators of TikTok earlier this year agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allegations that the company illegally collected personal information from children.

In April this year, the Madras High Court had passed an interim order banning TikTok citing inappropriate and pornographic content. The ban was subsequently lifted. (IANS)

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TikTok Prevents Disabled Users’ Videos From Going Viral: Report

"This was never designed to be a long-term solution, and while the intention was good, it became clear that the approach was wrong," the spokesperson told the BBC

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TikTok has over 54 million monthly active users (MAUs) in India. Pixabay

Chinese short video-sharing app TikTok has acknowledged that content produced by disabled users was deliberately suppressed by the firm’s moderators in a bid to prevent these users from becoming victims of bullying, the media reported.

Facing criticism, TikTok acknowledged that its approach had been flawed, the BBC reported on Tuesday, adding that the measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners termed the strategy “bizarre”.

A leaked extract from TikTok’s rulebook gave examples of what its moderators were instructed to be on the lookout for: disabled people, those with Down’s syndrome and autism, people with facial disfigurements, and people with other “facial problems” such as a birthmark or sight squint.

Such users were “susceptible to bullying or harassment based on their physical or mental condition”, according to the rulebook.

TikTok
The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

The moderators were instructed to restrict viewership of affected users’ videos to the country where they were uploaded, according to an unnamed TikTok source quoted by Netzpolitik.

The moderators were told to prevent the clips of vulnerable users from appearing in the app’s main video feed once they had reached between 6,000 to 10,000 views, said the report.

Also Read: Lenovo Decides to Expands its Range of Smart Devices in India

A spokesman for TikTok admitted that it had made the wrong choice, the BBC reported.

“Early on, in response to an increase in bullying on the app, we implemented a blunt and temporary policy,” he was quoted as saying.

“This was never designed to be a long-term solution, and while the intention was good, it became clear that the approach was wrong,” the spokesperson told the BBC. (IANS)