The Tiktok Ban Points To A Larger Issue: How Do We Ensure Teen Safety Online?

Posted: April 19, 2019

TikTok has been banned on both Android and iOS platforms, and new users cannot download the app. It raises the question of how safe or appropriate is the app ecosystem for teens and tweens.

Recently, the Indian government asked Google and Apple to take down the popular short video mobile app TikTok from their app stores. The order was passed by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, directing the government to ban the download of TikTok app in the country.

What it means is that no new Android user or iPhone user will be able to download this app from either the Play Store or App Store respectively. Google has blocked access to TikTok in its Play Store to comply with the court’s directive. The app is not available in Apple’s App store as well.

As on date, existing users who already have this app installed on their smartphones can continue to use it. However, whether this functionality will continue to be available in the coming days is still to be seen. The ban was issued as the app was found to be hosting child pornographic content on its platform which gave sexual predators the opportunity to target children via this app.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, said in its petition to the Supreme Court that it could not be held liable for actions of third parties on the platform. They claimed that their app was like any other social media app and singling out TikTok was discriminatory and arbitrary. The Supreme Court filing also said that ByteDance found a ‘very minuscule’ amount of content on the platform that was obscene or inappropriate. They now need to appear in Court for another hearing on April 24th.

The legal action against ByteDance could set a precedence of courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms. India is one of several nations across Asia which is coming up with stringent measures to regulate web content.

The app, most popular among teens, children, and young adults has been downloaded more than 240 million times in India and has more than 120 million monthly active users. The app mainly contains jokes, clips, and footage of movies along with 15 to 30 seconds short music videos in which youngsters lip sync and dance to popular music.

In Delhi, a 19-year-old teenager was allegedly shot dead by his friend as they posed with a pistol to make a video on the mobile app TikTok. The app has already been banned in Bangladesh and hit with a large fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.

ByteDance is a Chinese-owned social media startup currently valued at $75 billion. With its mobile app TikTok, the company has been hugely successful in increasing its user base outside China. And somewhere along the way, the app has evolved as a popular means of teenage expression in the cyber world. What is disturbing is that a lot of this teenage expression includes sexually suggestive dancing, age inappropriate clothing and even dangerous stunts.

Although it will be unfair to say that everyone who is using this app is misusing it, yet there have been instances where a lot of people have not used this app most wisely. When we add the issue of child safety to this mix, we are faced with a compelling need to put in checks and balances at appropriate junctures to prevent any harm befalling children.

Image via Canva

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I have worked in the financial sector as a banking executive and in the field

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