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Are RSS's fears about Tik Tok true? Here's what you should know

by Admin — last modified Feb 22, 2019 02:13 AM
Swadeshi Jagran Manch has flagged security, business and social risks posed by Chinese apps such as TikTok. The RSS fears may not be totally unfounded.

The article was published in Economic Times on February 20, 2019. Shweta Mohandas was quoted. The story was also published by Moneycontrol News.


Should India let Chinese social media apps and telecom companies proliferate in India? Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a ban on these Chinese companies.

The statement comes days after the Pulwama attack by terrorists of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). China has repeatedly helped Pakistan by blocking India’s efforts to get Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar listed by the UN Security Council as a global terrorist.

SJM has flagged security, business and social risks posed by Chinese apps such as hugely popular TikTok.

The RSS fears may not be totally unfounded.

TikTok, Kwai and LIKE have been downloaded by millions of smartphone users in small town India who are using them to share personal videos, away from the glare of scrutiny that falls on more mainstream social media platforms.

In November last year, ET reviewed more than 20 Chinese video apps that dominate the mobile entertainment network of tier-2 and tier-3 cities mostly thanks to titillating videos, suggestive notifications, risqué humour and raunchy content.

The Chinese apps pose several potential risks, Swetha Mohandas, policy officer at the Center for Internet and Society, an advocacy group, told ET in November last year. “The draft DP (data protection) Bill in the current stage provides greater responsibility on data fiduciaries to maintain the privacy of the individual and the security of the data,” she said. “There are a lot of questions that these apps pose with respect to the Bill, some of them being the security, the data storage provision, the personal data of children, and most importantly that these apps might have recordings that might be sensitive personal data.”

Most of these apps including TikTok explicitly state that though they have appropriate technical and organisational measures in place, “they cannot guarantee the security of your information transmitted through the platform”.

TikTok, the popular lip-sync app, is filled with 15-second clips of meme-friendly content featuring its youthful users miming to their favourite songs. The videos range from the harmless to the explicit, depending upon the users followed. The app has gone viral, having racked up close to 100 million downloads and with 20 million monthly active users in India.

While all such apps carry a disclaimer stating that they are not directed at children, their target audience encompasses preteens and adolescents in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, according to experts.

Despite the rapidly growing user base, apps like TikTok don’t have a grievance redressal officer in India. The government is insisting on this for all major social media platforms.

In its letter to the PM, SJM said it was the duty of all Indians to take steps to prevent the economic gains of any nation or individual that directly or tacitly supports terrorists.

Referring to India putting economic pressure on Pakistan, SJM said, “At such a time, we believe it is imperative that the government create similar hurdles for Chinese companies that are using India for their economic gain. As has been said often, data is now considered the new oil. We should not allow Chinese companies to capture Indian user data without any restrictions and monitoring.”

Bytedance's response: TikTok and Helo are committed to respecting local laws and regulations as well as maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment for our users in India. There is no basis for the factually incorrect claims raised by certain groups recently. We treat the safety and security of our user data very seriously. Moreover, we have robust measures to protect users against misuse, including easy reporting mechanisms that enable users and law enforcement to report content that violates our terms of use and community guidelines.

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