The Madras High Court on Wednesday, 3 April, directed the central government to prohibit the download of mobile application TikTok, stating that the app hosts inappropriate content, including pornography, which is available for access to children.
A bench comprising of Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar passed an interim order prohibiting the media from telecasting the videos made using the app. The court has also directed the government to respond on whether a legislation similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted by the United States, can be brought in India.
“By becoming addicted to TikTok App, and similar apps, or cyber games, the future of the youngsters and mindset of the children are spoiled,” the court said in its interim order.
The court was hearing a petition which contended that the Tik Tok mobile app “was containing degrading culture and encouraging pornography besides containing explicit disturbing content and causing social stigma and medical health issue between teens.”
“Majority of the teens are playing pranks, gaffing around with duet videos and sharing with split screen to the strangers. The children who use the said application are vulnerable and may expose them to sexual predators,” the court observed.
The petition seeking a ban on TikTok will be heard on 16 April.
In March, Tamil Nadu’s Information Technology Minister M Manikandan said that the government will recommend the Centre to ban the app in response to a request by Nagapattinam MLA Thamimun Ansari. The lawmaker had felt that young people using the app was causing rifts within families.
However, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) believes that banning the use and download of a platform needs to be contested, even in case of TikTok. It says much of this has been done without adequate legal reasoning.
IFF said :“It is a social networking application that is aimed towards video creation and sharing. The average length of videos ranges from 10-60 seconds. While such a format has been socially critiqued for a range of impacts, the Hon’ble High Court of Madras has passed three harsh directions which merit to be contested.”
This doesn’t mean IFF is in favour of such platforms promoting content that can be harmful for kids. IFF says that privacy has to be of utmost concern for such companies, which can be only achieved by offering legislative protection.
“We agree that the privacy of children merits urgent legislative protection and this interim order may be an overreach on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.” IFF added.