Tamil Nadu Information Technology Minister M Manikandan said in the Assembly Tuesday that the state government will seek the help of the Centre to ban the mobile app TikTok.
The move comes after AIADMK leader and Nagapattinam MLA Thamimun Ansari raised the demand, claiming that the app is “damaging” to Indian culture. Manikandan said that the state will recommend the ban on TikTok the way they “tackled the Blue Whale challenge”, referring to a ‘suicide game’ blamed for the deaths of several youth across the country.
TikTok is one of the most popular mobile apps today, and in 2018 was one of the most downloaded apps on both Android and Apple devices. On this app, people can create short, mobile-friendly videos which can be synced with an existing sound byte – often a song, movie dialogue, or a politician’s speech.
There are a large number of Indians who use the app, and a substantial number from Tamil Nadu. However, Ansari, who raised the demand for banning the app, isn’t one of them.
He told The Indian Express that he decided to speak about the issue after some parents and activists told him that the app is leading to a serious crisis in culture.
“Look at Saudi Arabia or China, they all have a system to restrict such apps. India is known for family culture, and the great values we teach our children. Most of the TikTok videos are nothing but dances and songs presented in a vulgar way. Many people are upset about this. If the government cannot ban it, I will follow up this issue seeking better regulation,” Ansari said.
Sonia Arunkumar, a social media strategist in the Tamil film and media industry, said apps like TikTok and Dubsmash are widely used to imitate prominent politicians, as well as make new movie songs go viral.
“The song Inkem Inkem Kavali from the Telugu movie Geetha Govindham (2018), or the song Rowdy Baby from the Tamil movie Maari 2 (2018) are a few examples in which TikTok played a huge role in making them popular,” she said.
Many users also use the app to ridicule or express sympathy for politicians. “Fiery political speeches of Tamil leaders such as Seeman, or some statements of Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan, are other examples for using TikTok to produce hundreds of videos to express their political affinity or protest against a leader,” Arunkumar said.
Soundararajan, often on the receiving end of such videos, was one of the first leaders who welcomed the state’s move. “I will be the first person to be happy if the app is banned. These apps are mostly being used to ridicule people like me. It has crossed limits. The app started for an entertainment purpose has now gone beyond all limits now. I welcome if there is a move to ban it,” she said.
However, the Congress has ridiculed the move.
“It is an app that people use for personal use. People who have been using it are personally uploading their own videos. If you have a problem with that, don’t watch it. If you ban everything on the basis of whether or not it matches with your values, nothing will be left out… If this app deserves some regulations, we can frame rules and do that instead of banning it,” said Congress national spokesperson Khushbu.