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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Chinese apps ban: How will it impact us? Everything you need to know

Many are calling it a “digital surgical strike” by India on China. Amid the ongoing stand-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh, India put a ban on 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat, among others. The Centre’s decision is clearly the largest sweep against the Chinese tech firms.

The ban has ruffled some feathers. The government’s move has caught the users of those apps unaware. Many wonder should we really delete the banned apps? What if we don’t? What about the contents that we already posted on those apps? Will our privacy be breached?

Here’s the entire issue explained in 7 questions

Why did India ban 59 Chinese apps?

Many of us are wondering what prompted this ban. Well, the Indian ministry of information and technology has said they were receiving regular complaints that these Chinese apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner”. Breaching data privacy and sharing sensitive information and contents with the Chinese government was another accusation that these apps faced. US senators even wanted a thorough probe against these apps. The Indian government said the concerns of national security, defence and integrity are associated with this and therefore, these apps should be banned to ensure national safety.

What will be the impact of this ban on Indian users?

No doubt, the ban will affect millions of Indian users. According to a report by the BBC, India is TikTok’s biggest foreign market with over 120 million users.

“If around 95% of 100 million users exit, that kills the network effect and most of the contents and hence an app like TikTok is no longer attractive.” – tech policy expert Prasanto K. Roy told BBC.

This is not the first time that such a move has been taken by the Centre. Last year, as per a Madras High Court’s order, TikTok was banned. The court said it promoted pornographic content. Later, the ban was lifted with the court saying banning an app is not a solution, rather rights of legitimate users must be protected.

How is China reacting to the development?

The Chinese government has said they are “strongly concerned” over India’s move to ban 59 of their apps and are “verifying the situation”. Reacting to the ban, Chinese spokesperson Zhao Lijian blamed India for failing to ensure user security. He said India has the responsibility to uphold the legitimate and legal rights of international investors, including the Chinese ones. Lijian added that the Chinese government always asks its traders to abide by the rules of international business and they did so in their transactions with India.

Will it hamper PM Modi’s social media image?

It is funny but true that PM Modi himself joined one such Chinese app called Weibo that has been banned on Monday. Weibo is China’s equivalent to Twitter. Modi joined the app in 2015 and has over 5 lakh followers. His Weibo account was managed by the PMO along with other accounts like Twitter and Instagram and the like. According to a report by ThePrint, several Weibo users in China are lashing out at Modi in Mandarin following the ban announcement. “Trash”, “Evil”, “Little brother”, “Garbage” and other such slangs have been used against the Indian PM following his decision to ban Weibo.

What do app makers say on this?

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance told the BBC that they are committed to work with the government to demonstrate their dedication to user security and commitment. According to a BBC report, TikTok’s India head Nikhil Gandhi said the company has been invited to meet “concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit any clarification”. However, the makers of other 58 apps are yet to react to the India government’s decision. They sense the apps will remain banned as long as the Indo-China border tensions continue.

Will it affect the growth of indigenous content makers?

Yes of course. As we all know that TikTok has turned a simple homemaker to a social media star overnight. It is a platform where you can sing, dance, act, play or put up any sort of performance to snowball your number of followers. The app has been an earning platform to millions of aspiring artistes, irrespective of their age or background. Similarly, WeChat has also been an useful app for many running their businesses over phone and connect to people in China. So this is not just an attack on the Chinese, but also on the livelihood of Indians. Along with TikTok, Helo, Bigo Live, ShareIt and other such apps have quite a huge number of user base in India. If we look at the history, TikTok makers lost $500000 daily and their 250 jobs were at risk the last time India banned the app in 2019.

Is the ban permanent?

We don’t know yet if the ban is permanent. The previous ban on TikTok was lifted following checks on user privacy and other such measures. As per a report by The Quint, the makers of TikTok and Helo are trying to discuss the matter with the Indian government and find a solution. So we have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure, Instagram and YouTube are going to reap a huge benefit out of this development. Following this ban, millions of TikTok users will flock there to keep their trade and popularity intact.

We think it is a digital attack on China by India to teach them a lesson after intrusion by the PLA to the Indian side in Ladakh. India might take a softer stance later if the border situation improves. Till then, bye bye TikTok & Co.

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