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Google suspends access to app in country after Madras HC order

17 April 2019

TikTok has been taken down from Google Play Store and Apple App Store in India following an order by the Supreme Court of India.

Expressing concern over the "pornographic and inappropriate" contents of the TikTok, the high court had, on April 3, directed the Centre to ban the app.

Chinese startup Bytedance urged India's Supreme Court last week to quash the ban order, saying it would go against freedom of speech rights in India.

Apple and Google have removed TikTok, which allows users to create and share videos, from their app stores in India.

Google blocked access to TikTok in its Play store in India to comply with the court's directive, a person with direct knowledge told Reuters on Tuesday. "We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome", the spokesperson said.

The app has had quite a few run-ins with the law. However, the furore over TikTok emerged since it has been accused of encouraging pornography. Users who had the app will continue to be able to use it. Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Having said that, the app is still accessible to the ones who have it downloaded on their phones. It has also restricted media companies from broadcasting any videos from the app.

Salman Waris, a technology lawyer at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, said the legal action against Bytedance could set a precedent of Indian courts intervening to regulate content on social media and other digital platforms. Further, the SC ordered that the case will be heard again on April 22, to account for the latest Madras High Court order from April 16.

The order mentions nothing about the existing users of TikTok, and only orders Google and Apple to remove the TikTok app from the app stores.

Launched in India in 2018, TikTok has 120 million active users in India, particularly youngsters in small town and cities.

It had asked the government if it would enact a statute on the line of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the United States and posted the matter for further hearing on April 16. "To date, we have removed over 6 million videos that violated our Terms of Use and Community Guidelines, following an exhaustive review of content generated by our users in India".

Google suspends access to app in country after Madras HC order