India bans TikTok, 58 other Chinese apps amidst spy concerns

TikTok has been banned in India, along with 58 other mostly Chinese apps, as tensions between the two countries continue.

TikTok, which is developed by Chinese company Bytedance, allows users to share short videos which are generally set to music. It has regularly denied allegations about its relationship with the Chinese government, publishing a blog post late last year in which it said its data centres are kept outside of China and that it is not subject to Chinese data law.

The Indian government has now said that it would block the app – along with 58 others, including Alibaba’s UC Browser and Tencent’s WeChat, as well as games such as Clash of Kings.

The 59 blocked apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”, the Ministry of Information Technology said.

It said that some of the apps had been found to be “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”, though it did not explicitly reference any particular apps or specific data practices that had led to the ban.

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It described such data use as “a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures”, in an official statement that said such a ban was made possible under India’s Information Technology Act.

Members of the public had also voiced concern about the way certain apps use the data they collect, the ministry claimed.

The ministry also noted that India was looking to become “a leading innovator when it comes to technological advancements and a primary market in the digital space”.

The ban comes after a deadly border conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations earlier this month in which 20 Indian soldiers have died.

The government announcement made no reference to those tensions or to the fact that most of the apps had been developed in China.

The statement gave no indication of how such a block would be put in place. Recent attempts by governments to completely ban certain apps – such as Russia’s sanctions on Telegram – have seen users largely able to get around the bans, while at the same time causing disruption to the underlying infrastructure of the internet.

The full list of 59 apps can be found on the official government website.

Last year, TikTok was briefly banned in India over concerns that it was being used to distribute pornography. The ban was lifted weeks later and TikTok has since been publicly available until now.

When the ban was lifted, TikTok celebrated by launching a campaign called #ReturnofTikTok and posted a blog post claiming that in India it had “over 200 million users and counting”.

Earlier this month, Google banned an app called “Remove China Apps” from its online store. The tool – which scanned the phone for any apps developed in China, including TikTok, and deleted them – has been reported to have been downloaded more than five million times in the short period it was available.

The movement to delete Chinese apps amid the ongoing tensions between the two countries had been supported by citizens on social media, as well as a spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party.

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