Sunday, May 19, 2024

What happened when Tiktok app was banned in India, Chinese company’s biggest market – Times of India

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In India, a country of 1.4 billion, it took TikTok just a few years to build an audience of 200 million users. India was the biggest market for Tiktok, owned by China-based ByteDance. Then, on June 29, 2020, the Indian government announced the ban on Tiktok, along with 58 other Chinese apps, after a border dispute between India and China flared into violence.The apps disappeared from Google and Apple stores, and their websites were blocked. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology cited the apps as “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state, and public order”. The ban was made permanent in January 2021.
TikTok came to India early, establishing a wide base in 2017 in dozens of the country’s languages. Its content — short videos — were homey and hyperlocal. In a few years, TikTok became a platform for several small entrepreneurial ventures as well as entertainment, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
How India’s TikTok ban compares to call for similar ban in the US
As a report in the New York Times says, “A popular form of entertainment, which had not been the subject of political debate, vanished overnight. Now, as politicians are wrangling in Washington over a plan that could shut access for the 170 million Americans using TikTok, the example set by India gives a foretaste of what may come — and how audiences and other social media companies catering to them might respond.”
The decision by India to ban TikTok was sudden, while the US efforts, which began in 2020, are protracted. But the motivation is largely similar. As the NYT report said, “Whereas the United States and China are engaged in a new kind of cold war over economic dominance, India and China have had troops standing off at their border since 1962….” Like in India, US lawmakers too fear that the app could serve as a tool for Beijing to spread propaganda, misinformation or influence Americans.
Several US officials and lawmakers have long voiced concerns that the Chinese government could compel TikTok’s parent ByteDance to hand over data collected from American users. In fact, India’s ban on Tiktok found mention in the US house when the bill related to the banning of the TikTok app was presented.
US praised India for TikTok ban
When India banned TikTok and multiple Chinese apps, the US was among the first countries to praise the decision. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had welcomed the ban, saying that it will boost India’s sovereignty.
Life without TikTok
The ban on TikTok was not without pain. Several Indian TikTokkers had to grapple with confusion and anguish in the days that followed. The NYT report quotes Veer Sharma, who was 26 then, and collected 7 million followers on TikTok. Son of a laid-off millworker in Indore, he posted videos of himself and friends lip-syncing and joking around to Hindi film songs. He is said to have felt “beyond happy” when people recognized him on the street.
With his new stardom, Sharma is reported to be earning Rs 1 lakh a month. After the ban in 2020, he is reported to have barely had time to make one last video for his fans. “Our times together will be ending soon, and I don’t know how or when we will be able to meet again,” he reportedly told his followers. “Then, I cried and cried,” he told New York Times.
However, within days India’s online life soon adapted to life beyond TikTok, or rather to TikTok’s absence. The biggest gainer has been Facebook’s Instagram with its Reels and Google’s YouTube with Shorts. Indian content creators swiftly moved all the old content they had shot for TikTok to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
Several Indian companies too tried to fill in the gap, but US tech giants, with their deeper pockets, grew fast. India is now reported to be the biggest market for both YouTube (almost 500 million monthly users) and Instagram (362 million), with roughly twice as many users as either has in the United States.
But while some regained their fame, not everyone was able to build a significant following on these platforms. Also, Instagram and YouTube Shorts gave rise to new creators as well.

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