India led requests for user information and content takedowns on TikTok, TikTok’s first Transparency Report, released on December 30, revealed. The report summarises requests made by governments between January 1 and June 30, 2019.
- India made 107 requests for user information: India made the highest number of legal requests for user information, of which 8 were emergency requests. These requests were aimed at 143 specified accounts and TikTok complied with 47% of them in some capacity. The United States, Japan, and Pakistan made 79, 35 and 1 requests respectively. While complying with a lawful request, TikTok may provide the law enforcement agencies with the following user information: subscriber information (first and last name, phone number, IP address used upon account creation, etc.), video content, user interactions (live chats, comments and direct messages), and log data (metadata regarding account logins and logouts, user-generated content and in-app communications).
- Law enforcement officials must provide legal documents (warrants, court orders, etc.) to request information. TikTok clarified that it would “honor a law enforcement request not to notify the user” if the law enforcement agency says that it would jeopardise the investigation.
- TikTok evaluates emergency requests on a case by case basis. They must be on an official letterhead and signed by a sworn law enforcement official.
- Indian government also made highest number of content takedown requests: Out of the 11 requests made by the Indian Government that targeted 9 accounts, TikTok removed/restricted 8 of the accounts. USA and Japan made 6 and 3 such requests, respectively. These requests seek to remove content that a government deems to be in violation of local laws.
- TikTok complies with 85% copyrighted content takedown notices globally: Of the 3,345 copyrighted content takedown notices filed by “copyright owners, their agencies, or attorneys”, 85% resulted in some content being removed. As per TikTok policy, users with multiple copyright infringements may have their accounts suspended or terminated.
TikTok’s checkered history in India
TikTok in India has been blamed in the past for inconsistency as it had issued notices to ShareChat claiming exclusive rights over the content despite its intermediary status in August 2019.
The company has also had other run ins with Indian authorities in the past. The Madras High Court had imposed a temporary ban on the app in April 2019 on the grounds that it was responsible for spreading pornography, exposing children to sexual predators, and adversely impacting users’ mental health. In July 2019, MeitY’s Cyber Laws and e-Security wing had also submitted a notice to TikTok asking them to respond to concerns about them committing anti-India and unlawful activities.