- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
Ban on Tiktok app
What to study?
For prelims and mains: why ban, need, issues and what’s the way out?
Context: The Indian government has ordered Google and Apple to take down the Chinese-owned Tiktok video app after a court expressed concerns over the spread of pornographic material.
Tiktok has already been banned in neighbouring Bangladesh and hit with a large fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children. The app, which claims to have 500 million users worldwide including more than 120 million in India, has been fighting the effort to shut it down after a high court in Chennai called for the ban on 3 April.
What necessitated this and can the ban be justified?
The case was launched by an activist group which said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.
The ban assumes that only a few platforms are a source of the problem and ignores the fundamental nature of the internet. The internet is not just Facebook or TikTok or WhatsApp. There are several other websites where people can go and find some of the most horrible content and then share it to the other platforms. To single out one app as a source of the problem as has happened with TikTok is worrying.
The TikTok ban also raises questions about the future of tech policy in India. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) is already working on new rules for intermediaries, which would put a lot more onus on companies to monitor content beforehand, and assumes that automated monitoring and AI will solve the problem.
What needs to be done?
The best way to protect users, especially children, is to empower them with information.
Time is indeed nigh for legislation specifically protecting the interests of young users, it is also important for policymakers and internet companies to create education materials targeted at children and their parents.
To begin with, the government must make the safe use of the internet a part of the school and college course curricula.
TikTok is not the only internet company to be lethargic in acting on complaints, Twitter and Facebook have been slow to act as well, aside from doing little to help law enforcement in cracking down on crime. If such companies value their users and wish to retain them, they should start being proactive in dealing with harmful behaviour on their sites.
Sources: the Hindu.