The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has directed the central government to ban short-video app TikTok in the country on the grounds that it facilitates the circulation and distribution of inappropriate and explicit content harmful for children.
TikTok is owned by Chinese content giant ByteDance and has more than 500 million users in Asia.
Acting on a petition filed by Madurai-based lawyer and social activist Muthu Kumar, the division bench also directed media houses “not to telecast the videos made using the TikTok mobile app”.
The judges, Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice SS Sundar, also asked the Centre to respond on whether legislation similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US should be created in India.
TikTok allows users to create and share short-form videos in which they can lip-sync to videos, dance, and share music and other content. However, TikTok has drawn flak amid reports of obscene content. Critics also say that sexual predators are increasingly using the app to target children.
In February, Tamil Nadu IT minister M Manikandan had said that the state would take appropriate measures against the app including asking the Centre to ban the TikTok in India. His statement was part of a discussion in the legislative assembly on how the app promotes obscene behaviour.
For its part, TikTok stated that it was working closely with law enforcement agencies and has hired a nodal officer -- a chief requirement under the Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rule 2018.
“At TikTok, we are committed to abiding by local laws and regulations. We fully comply with the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. We are currently awaiting the official order by the Honourable High Court of Madras and once received, we will review and take appropriate action regarding this matter,” read a company statement.
The next hearing will take place on April 16.