SUPREME COURT OF INDIA REFUSES TO GRANT STAY ON BAN IMPOSED BY THE MADRAS HIGH COURT ON TIKTOK APP

The Chinese-owned TikTok video app (App) enables the users to create short videos with music in background and then edit, speed up or slow them down. It also uses artificial intelligence to track user’s interests and thus displays personalized content too.

Recently, in India there have been concerns about the negative impact that the App may potentially have on children. For instance, a 19-year-old boy in Delhi lost his life while posing for the TikTok video where his friend shot him with a country made pistol. In a similar instance, a student from Tamil Nadu was also killed while riding a scooter when he along with his friends were trying to make a TikTok video. Many other such instances have occurred across other states in India.

On 1st April 2018, Advocate and Social Activist, Mr. Mathu Kumar, filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Madras High Court seeking ban of TikTok App because of its pornographic content and its potential to expose children to sexual predators. The Madras High Court had demanded the Centre to ban TikTok App and also, had prohibited any broadcast of media content created on TikTok App.

Although TikTok App has raised the issue that such videos and other content can also be accessed and shared by people on other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc, therefore, such selective actions solely against the App is morally and legally wrong. Further, being an intermediary under the Information Technology Act, 2000, as amended thereof, they are not responsible for the contents posted by the third party using the App, as they only provide the technology to make such videos.

In response to the Order of the Madras High Court dated 3rd of April, 2019, the TikTok App has removed six million videos that didn’t comply with community guidelines. On 15th April, 2019, the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay on the ban ordered by Madras High Court vide Order dated 3rd of April, 2019. As a result, the App was removed from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store on 18th of April, 2019.

So far, the Indian Government has not yet raised any issue of potential threat to national security through the App. In fact, the ban mostly revolves around the issue about unsuitable content that can be uploaded, downloaded and shared by users of the App and that post ban, the existing registered users of the App could still access the App and share the videos.

Thus, in this case, the Apex Court has directed the Madras High Court to decide in an ex parte ad-interim order, by 24th of April, 2019, with regard to the ban imposed by its Order dated 3rd of April, 2019, failing which the ban imposed on the App would be overturned.

Asif Khan

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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