The Indian government is going after social media apps run by Chinese companies, gearing up to create new regulations that will force them to oversee the content being shared.
According to a report in the Financial Times, with Chinese social media apps very popular in India, the government is setting its sights on them. The government in India has been largely focused on regulating U.S. technology leaders like Amazon and Facebook to prop up homegrown startups, but is expanding that focus to include Chinese apps.
The paper noted that last year short video apps TikTok, Like and Help became leaders in the Android app store in India, with five of the top 10 apps made by Chinese companies. That is up from two in 2017. TikTok, a social video app in which users make short videos that can be shared and commented on by followers, has 39 percent of its users located in India — the biggest market for TikTok outside of China. Meanwhile, India accounts for 64 percent of Like’s users.
Under the rules being drafted by the Indian Ministry of electronics and IT, apps that rely on users to create content and have more than 5 million users must set up a local office and have senior executives in India who can take on any potential legal issues. The apps are also required to roll out automation tools to identify and remove unlawful information and/or content, noted the report.
“When the potential is there for misuse, it would be naive to imagine [these apps] can’t be misused,” said S Gopalakrishnan, a senior official at the electronics ministry. “What prompted our proposals is the problem with risky and criminal content. The things that worry us are who takes responsibility for the content? Who moderates it? Do we want those apps to be a vehicle for terrorism or pornography? No.” The FT noted that in July Indonesia banned TikTok, claiming it had “pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy.”
The Indian ministry has been in talks with TikTok owner ByteDance about moderating the content on the app. The company, noted the report, is expected to publish a response to the draft rules shortly. The laws being drafted are similar to new guidelines China put in place. Under those, apps such as TikTok are expected to go over every piece of content and are held responsible if any content deemed harmful is posted by users.