The centre has been asked by the Madras High Court to ban popular Chinese video app TikTok, saying it was “encouraging pornography”. The order also directs the media from telecasting videos made using the app.
TikTok, an app that allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, has over 54 million monthly active users in India.
The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, which has been hearing a petition against the app, on Wednesday said children who were using TikTok were vulnerable to exposure to sexual predators.
The petition was filed by a Madurai-based senior lawyer-cum-social activist Muthu Kumar. Citing pornography, cultural degradation, child abuse, suicides, he had requested the court to direct a ban on TikTok.
The judges, Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar, have also directed the central government to respond before April 16 if it would enact regulations such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US to prevent children becoming online victims.
“We are happy about the interim order,” said Neelamegam, the petitioner’s lawyer.
A TikTok spokesman told news agency Reuters the company was committed to abiding by local laws and was awaiting a copy of the court’s order, following which it would take appropriate action.
“Maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment … is our priority,” he said.
The court said the “dangerous aspect” of TikTok is the “inappropriate” content. It also said “there is a possibility of the children contacting strangers directly”.
The order also observed that pranks made using the app could violate privacy.
A few months, AIADMK legislator Thamimun Ansari, on the floor of the Tamil Nadu assembly, had demanded ban on TikTok citing what he called cultural degradation. The state IT Minister Manikanandan had said he would take it up with the centre.
TikTok, which was launched in 2019, is a social video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Co. It reached the one billion download mark in February. It was the fourth most-downloaded non-game app in 2018.
TikTok was among the internet companies that recently agreed to come up with a model code document for themselves on the lines of the model code of conduct for the upcoming national election and for the future, in an attempt to curb fake news on social media.