The web-application TikTok created by a Chinese company– Byte Dance, was initially launched as 'Douyin' in September, 2016 in China. It was introduced in the overseas market as 'TikTok' only in 2018 and it spread like a virus with nearly 500 million+ users. The app is most popular amongst the youth. Recently, a PIL was filed at the Madras High Court by one Mr. S. Muthukumar of Madurai, requesting the Court to ban the app TikTok. The petitioner pleaded that the app contained pornographic content. This has led to social stigma and mental illness amongst youngsters.

The Madras High Court took cognizance of the matter and on April 4, 2019 observed that, the app was in fact largely being used by teenagers and was an addictive one. The Court also compared the app to the Russian app 'Blue Whale' which had reportedly led to multiple suicides all over the world. The Court went on to say that unrestricted access to the TikTok images and videos by predators could have severe consequences. Thus, keeping in view the dangers that the youngsters of the country are being exposed to, the Madras High Court directed a ban on the app as an interim measure, in addition to the following:

  • The Government is directed to take measures to prohibit the public at large from downloading of TikTok;
  • The Media is prohibited from telecasting the videos made using TikTok; and
  • 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 children from becoming cyber/online victims.

Investigations revealed that youngsters continue to access and download the application from indirect sources in spite of court orders, until Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store decided to delist the app. Further on April 16, 2019, the Madras HC appointed Snr. Adv. Arvind Datar as an independent counsel to assess the implications of TikTok. Meanwhile the proprietors of TikTok moved the Supreme Court pleading it to grant a stay on the Madras High Court's decision and further submitted that a ban on the app would lead to loss of jobs and financial losses. However, the SC declined to stay the High Court's decision and the ban continues.

Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan

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