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TikTok’s content takedown notices inconsistent with its status as intermediary, ShareChat tells govt: report

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ShareChat has written to the government saying that Tiktok’s content takedown notices are inconsistent with its declared status as an intermediary, reports the Economic Times. ShareChat reportedly asked the government to clarify the intermediary liability status of platforms like TikTok. The government meanwhile, believes that TikTok is “on the backfoot” on this issue, and is set to ask the platform if such takedown requests raise questions over its status as a social media intermediary, according to the report.

TikTok’s response to content takedown requests from the government is usually that it’s an intermediary and has no control over the content; however, its content takedown notice to ShareChat proves otherwise, since an intermediary is neither supposed to own any content nor have any control over it, the report continues.

ShareChat had to take down TikTok videos from its platform after TikTok sent it notices claiming exclusive rights over the content. ShareChat has declined to comment, we’re awaiting a response from TikTok.

TikTok’s repeated run-ins with Indian authorities

In April this year, the Madras High Court had imposed a temporary ban on TikTok, on the ground that the app was responsible for spreading pornography, potentially exposing children to sexual predators, and adversely impacting users’ mental health. The ban was lifted on April 24, as Arvind Datar, amicus curiae in the matter, elaborated on Intermediary Liability protections under the IT Act to explain the scope of exemption for platforms under Section 79, and said that intermediaries were not required to screen all content hosted on their platform. TikTok had told MediaNama at the time that they were in compliance with the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

On July 17, MeitY’s Cyber Laws and e-Security wing had issued a notice to TikTok and Helo, asking them to respond to concerns that they were being used to commit anti-India and unlawful activities. This was after RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch wrote to the PMO that called for a ban on the two apps, claiming that TikTok had become a hub for “anti-national content” that was capable of disrupting the “fabric of our society”.

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ShareChat’s earlier case with Bytedance-owned Helo

In May, the Delhi High Court had disposed of a case filed by ShareChat against its rival Helo, which is also operated by Bytedance. ShareChat accused Helo of being a “complete copy” of its own app, saying it mimicked its design, features and the look of individual icons. It also accused Helo of copying various posts and comments by ShareChat users and attributing them to fictitious people on its own app. Additionally, it said that ByteDance was unfairly bidding on the keyword ‘ShareChat’ on AdWords, Google’s advertising platform, to secure a higher placement in a Google search for that keyword. According to ShareChat, this constituted copyright infringement and also gave the impression that ShareChat was owned by or associated with Helo and ByteDance.

However, the case was set aside after Helo made several changes, including to its design and content, without being ordered to do so.

On November 1st last year, the court noted that Helo had:

  • Changed the user interface and login screen of its app
  • Tweaked the partial image that appeared in its listing on the Google Play Store
  • Discontinued and/or deactivated its keywords involving ‘Share’ and ‘Chat’ on Google Adwords
  • Changed the content categories and sub-categories on its app

In an order on April 14, the court told ShareChat’s lead counsel to ask his client if the suit could be disposed of, given that Helo had made the changes it was seeking. It posted the matter for May 17, when it finally disposed of the case.

Read More: Why they want TikTok banned in India

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