Social app TikTok hasn’t been blocked in India: people who’ve downloaded the app there are still using it. But is *has* been removed from Apple and Google’s app stores, meaning that new downloads are currently barred from those official sources. The news is a setback for TikTok in what’s become one of its biggest markets.
This has been bubbling for a while, amid debate in India about the content of some videos on TikTok and other social apps. The Economic Times reported yesterday that after the Madras High Court had ruled that TikTok should be barred from being downloaded, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had asked Apple and Google to remove the app from their stores. A subsequent report by Reuters confirmed that both companies had complied with the order.
Why the ban? The Madras High Court had criticised TikTok for “encouraging pornography” – although this is more about suggestive dances and users showing a bit of skin than it is full-blown adult content – as well as warning that the app might put children at risk of being contacted by adult strangers. For its part, TikTok said this week that it had recently removed more than 6m videos from its service, after a review of content posted by its users in India.
TikTok’s official statement in response to the removal includes a figure showing what’s at stake here. “We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India, who continue using TikTok to showcase their creativity and capture moments that matter in their everyday lives,” said the company.
While it’s true that those 120 million people can still use the app, there would be plenty more growth if it were still available to download. “If any action is taken it would be a major blow to TikTok’s growth because of the 188 million new users that it gained last quarter, the largest growth came from India, which had 88.6 million new users,” Anindya Ghose, of New York University’s Stern School, told Quartz India.