India has lifted an interim ban on the downloading of the TikTok social networking app, following a decision today in the Supreme Court of India. The ban had been put in place temporarily by the court on the basis that the app was said to be spreading pornographic content.
Though the Indian population makes up 8.34 percent of TikTok’s 500 million users, the interim ban did not affect the 54 million users who already had the app installed.
Why all the drama?
Amidst India’s upcoming national elections, conversations are being held around the nations morality, with fingers firmly pointed at any platform that hosts pornographic content. It already banned more than 800 sites that host pornography last year.
Pornhub’s mirror site pornhub.net was also blocked last month by Indian Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
As India ranked third on Pornhub’s daily traffic in 2018 (second to the US and UK), Vice President of Pornhub, Corey Price, told Quartz that he fears porn sites are being scapegoated for India’s systemic issue of rape and child abuse.
Executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, Apar Gupta, also mentioned that Indian ISPs are “not legally required to ban the mirror sites” and suggests that “ISPs may be blocking porn websites by themselves as a preventive step to avoid any subsequent litigation which may threaten their licences.”
Though TikTok is not solely used for erotic content, the video sharing app has been accused of degrading Indian culture and “encouraging pornography”, with children as a vulnerable target audience.
In a letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Gupta stated that banning apps “impacts free speech” and “rights of assembly”. He urged the government to “consider harms in a policy framework”, rather than outright censorship.
It seems these arguments were taken on board with the overturning of the ban.