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India Bans TikTok, Other Chinese Apps

India Bans TikTok, Other Chinese Apps

Monday, 6 July, 2020 - 09:15
FILE PHOTO: File photo of the TikTok logo on a mobile phone screen in this picture taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Asharq Al-Awsat

Indian TikTok users awoke Tuesday to a notice from the popular short-video app saying the company was working to comply with an India government ban on dozens of Chinese apps amid a military standoff between the two countries.


While service in India was suspended, the ban was largely symbolic since the apps can’t be automatically erased from devices where they've already been downloaded. The move was a response to a border clash with China where 20 Indian soldiers died earlier this month, digital experts said.


“They want to send a message. This is a decision based on a geopolitical situation,” said digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa.


Indian protesters have been calling for a boycott of Chinese goods since the June 15 confrontation in the remote Karakoram mountain border region.


Late Monday, the government said that it was banning 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, which is operated by Chinese internet firm Bytedance. It cited privacy concerns that it said pose a threat to India’s sovereignty and security.


The banned apps include some that enable TikTok users to add visual effects and music to their posts, as well as dating apps, privacy apps and multiplayer games.


India’s information technology ministry issued a statement saying it had received reports that mobile apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data."


The compilation of such data, and its mining and profiling by elements hostile to India is “a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures,” the statement said.


TikTok's countermove, shifting data to Ireland, shows how integrated the two economies have become.


Chinese products are ubiquitous in India, from toys to smartphones to Made-in-China Hindu idols. Two-way trade grew from $3 billion in 2000 to $95 billion in 2018, according to Indian government data, with the balance strongly favoring China.


“There is too much of Chinese presence in the everyday life of the average Indian,” said Alka Acharya, professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The soldiers’ deaths meant the Indian government had to hit back, Acharya said.


The ban on Chinese apps, signed by India's powerful Home Minister Amit Shah, asked phone companies to begin blocking the applications Tuesday, as top Army officers from India and China were set to meet for a third time to try to quell tensions and rein back on military build-ups in the disputed border area.


Supporters of the ban hailed it as a way to curtail China's growing influence.


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