The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has asked Chinese video applications TikTok and Helo to explain how it collects user data and creates awareness for safe use of its platform, Reuters reported on Friday.
The ministry sought details after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for a ban on TikTok and Helo. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch had alleged that Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, which developed the app, had a poor track record on privacy protection and that TikTok’s content was “against Indian culture and morality”.
The IT Ministry, in a three-page document which was accessed by Reuters, asked the company 24 questions related to TikTok’s user safety, data storage and legal compliance. The ministry also asked for details of steps taken to prevent obscene content on TikTok.
“What measures have been taken to create awareness among children and parents to ensure safe use of the platform and to avoid any addictiveness of the application?” read a question. Bytedance technology has also been asked to address queries related to its Helo app, which allows users to share content in local languages.
An unidentified government official said that TikTok and Helo need to respond to the ministry’s questions by July 22. The official added that it was too soon to say if the government was considering a ban on the apps. “They are expected to respond in a responsible manner,” the official said.
A spokesperson for TikTok and Helo said India was one of their strongest markets and the company planned to invest $1 billion in the country over the next three years. “We take our responsibilities to this community seriously and welcome this opportunity to fully collaborate with the government to meet and exceed our obligations,” the spokesperson said.
The Madras High Court had banned the download of the app on April 3 based on concerns of pornographic content. The Supreme Court gave the lower court until April 24 to decide on TikTok’s plea seeking interim relief, after which the Madras High Court lifted the ban, but warned against obscenity.