In a relief for Beijing-based developer Bytedance Technology Co., the Madras High Court’s Madurai bench Wednesday lifted the ban on its popular video app TikTok with the condition that the platform should not be used to host obscene videos. A bench of justices N Kirubakaran and S S Sundar, which heard the matter as per the orders of the Supreme Court, warned if any controversial video violating its condition was found uploaded using the app, it would be considered a contempt of court.
The Madras High Court had earlier ordered the government to prohibit TikTok downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography.
Shortly after the court’s judgment, the company issued a press statement: “We are glad about this decision and we believe it is also greatly welcomed by our thriving community in India, who use TikTok as a platform to showcase their creativity. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better. While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against misuse of the platform has been recognised, the work is never “done” on our end. We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India.”
TikTok is unofficially banned in India from being downloaded and was pulled out from the Google Play Store and the Apple app store after the high court’s order. The app has over 120 million active users in India, one of its largest markets.
The petition, which was filed in the high court called for a ban on the app, saying it put the lives of children in danger and exposed them to paedophiles. TikTok’s parent company, which is ByteDance (India) Technology Private Limited, had then filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the ban. The top court had then said it would let the Madras High Court hear the case, and only listed the matter for April 22.
On April 22, a Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna ordered that the high court will hear and decide the prayer for vacation of the interim stay. Appearing for TikTok, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi has sought a stay on the ex-parte order by the Madras High Court.
In an interview to indianexpress.com earlier, Sumedhas Rajgopal, Strategy and Entertainment Lead of TikTok India had said the company was open to addressing the concerns… “to understand what the community is talking about and what the government wants”. He said the platform was trying to make a lot of efforts to integrate those conversations in order to ensure that this is a safer space for anyone to be involved. “So we have a safety center and are empowering even a creator with a lot of tools to safeguard himself.”
India is not the only country where the app was banned.
TikTok was also banned for a few days in Indonesia last year because the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology thought some of the videos were negative and a bad influence on the youth. However, within a week, the company announced it would set up a team of censors to monitor inappropriate content and got the ban lifted.