The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MeitY) Cyber Laws and e-Security wing has issued a notice to TikTok and Helo app platforms to answer questions that they were being used to commit anti-Indian and unlawful activities. The department has sent a list of questions and warned that if appropriate response is not received the app platforms may face a ban.
The questionnaire sent to the operators of TikTok and Helo include a range of issues including the Platforms turning into a hub for anti-national activities, unauthorized data sharing by the apps, and the Helo app paying a huge sum for putting 11,000 morphed political ads on other social media platforms.
According to the ministry, “the concerns raised are serious in nature and needs a detailed explanation” from the app platforms. The app makers have been asked to submit their response before 22nd July 2019. If the operators failed to respond withing the deadline, the government may take necessary action to ban these apps.
However, in a statement against MeitY’s notice, TikTok and Helo said that they will be investing $1 billion in India over the next three years, with a strategic focus on developing technology infrastructure, establishing local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program.
The ministry took this strong action after they received complaints from different agencies as well as a letter written to the prime minister by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM). The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) co-convener Ashwani Mahajan in the letter had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban TikTok and Helo. He claimed that these two Chinese social media applications had become a hub for “anti-national” content as they were exposing India’s youth to being influenced by “vested interests”. According to the letter, some of these advertisements were using morphed pictures of senior Indian political leaders. However, some BJP leaders had also raised their concern to the election commission about the content on the apps during the last Lok sabha polls.