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TikTok ban will be lifted if Madras HC fails to decide on interim ban order: Supreme Court

Screenshots from TikTok App

The Supreme Court said today that the Madras HC’s interim ban on TikTok will be lifted if the high court fails to decide on TikTok’s plea against the ban by April 24, reports LiveLaw. The apex court’s bench, consisting of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, has refused to pass any order on TikTok’s appeal. Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for TikTok. Last week, Google and Apple removed TikTok from their app stores in India at the direction of the Madras High Court. The court had ordered an interim ban on April 4th, and directed the Center to ban the downloads of the app, citing multiple reasons including the spread of pornography of the platform, impact on mental health, pranks, potential exposure of children’s to sexual predators, and addiction to the platform. The court also declined TikTok’s subsequent plea to overturn the ban; it has appointed senior advocate Arvind P Datar as amicus curiae to advice the court and assess TikTok’s ‘impact’.

(See a copy of the SC’s order here on IFF)

TikTok’s plea against the ban

TikTok has claimed its like all other platforms and the selective action against TikTok violated equality before the law under Article 14 of the Constitution. TikTok’s operator Bytedance Technology argued before the SC that:

  • Its an intermediary and therefore protected under the Safe Harbor provisions of the IT Act.
  • Only a minuscule percentage of videos on TikTok is flagged as inappropriate by users, and that the majority use it for personal entertainment and expression, and for “fun” and “amusing” videos.
  • The singling out of TikTok is discriminatory and arbitrary since it is like any other platform
  • The ban is disproportionate and infringes upon freedom of speech and expression

What TikTok has done to fix itself

  1. Age gate: After Madras HC’s April 3rd ban order, TikTok announced an age gate feature for new users, which will only allow those aged 13 years and above to create an account.
  2. Content moderation: Tiktok said it has removed over 6 million videos since July 2018 that were in violation of its community guidelines. It said its content moderation strategy combines content moderation technology with a human moderation team to effectively police offending content. This team is said to be based in more than 20 countries, including India, and covers major Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati.
  3. Safety Centre in 10 Indian languages, asking users for ‘restraint’: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, TikTok last month made its Safety Center available in in 10 major Indian languages – Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Oriya. It introduced a section on India’s elections, asked users to be responsible, and report content to the ECI. It also included advice on how to combat bullying – including how to make an account private, delete or filter comments or fans, and report harassment – as well as links to anti-bullying resources.

Also read: Why the Madras High Court’s interim ban on enabling download of Tik Tok is worrying

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