SC stay on ban, government asks Apple & Google to take down TikTok app

BENGALURU: Google and Apple have been asked by the government to take down popular Chinese short-video mobile application TikTok from their app stores, two people familiar with the matter said.

The move, by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), comes after the Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay an earlier order by the Madras High Court to ban the app. A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, posted the matter for hearing to April 22, as the Madras High Court is expected to hear the case on April 16.

MeitY’s order will help stop further downloads of the application, but people who have already downloaded it will be able to continue using it on their smartphones, said both the people familiar with the development.

“The High Court asked the government to prohibit download of TikTok application. It (MeitY) is ensuring that by asking Google and Apple to delete it from the app stores. Now it is up to the companies to do it or appeal the order,” said one of the people.

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on April 3 passed an order directing the government to prohibit downloading of the TikTok app in the country. It also restricted media companies from telecasting the videos made using the application. On Monday, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for ByteDance, argued for a stay against the ban, saying it was causing irreparable damage to the company. ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, had earlier appealed to the apex court against the High Court directive.

In its petition to the Supreme Court last week, ByteDance said it cannot be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform. The app was like any other social media platform, it said, adding that singling out TikTok was discriminatory and arbitrary.



The ‘disproportionate’ ban has resulted in infringement of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, it said. Emails sent to Google, Apple and MeitY did not elicit comments until press time. “At Tik-Tok, we have faith in the Indian Judicial system and the stipulations afforded to social media platforms by the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011,” Tiktok said in an emailed statement.

It did not comment on MeitY’s direction to Apple and Google.

The IT Act’s Intermediary Guidelines give conditional legal safeguards to technology platforms for third-party content shared through their platforms. “We are committed to continuously enhancing our existing measures and introducing additional technical and moderation processes as part of our ongoing commitment to our users in India,” TikTok added.

TikTok was the third most installed app globally during Q1across the App Store and Google Play, the same rank it held during the previous quarter, according to Sensor Tower, a market analysis firm. Out of the 188 million new users added in the March quarter, India accounted for 88.6 million.

Last week, the company said it had removed over 6 million videos that violated its terms of use and community guidelines, following an exhaustive review of content generated by its users in India.

ByteDance’s applications TikTok and Helo are hugely popular among India’s teen and pre-teen population, especially in smaller towns. Many Chinese apps, including TikTok, have come under fire not only in India but also in the US, the UK, Hong Kong and Indonesia for content that is often dangerously close to exposing children to nudity and possibly those who seek to coerce or groom underage users into committing explicit acts.