Chinese short-video mobile app TikTok is no longer available on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. So, Android phone users or iPhone users can no longer download the app on their phone. Android users can still get the app through apk route using this website or that, but officially the app is no longer available in India. Google and Apple have taken the drastic step of removing the TikTok app from the Indian stores because that is what the Indian government wants.
This move comes after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) sent a missive to Google and Apple. And that missive came after the Supreme Court refused to stay an earlier order by the Madras High Court that asked the Indian government to ban the TikTok app for spreading inappropriate — read porn — content. But is blocking an app enough to stop the spread of such content? Answer: Not really.
Before talking about whether removing TikTok from Play or App store is a sensible move or not, a quick recap to what exactly happened. TikTok is no longer available in the Indian Play store and the iOS app store because the Madras High court believes in its interim order that TikTok is exposing children to pornographic and inappropriate video content. Earlier a bench of the Madras High Court refused to modify its interim order on TikTok and set April 24 as the next hearing date.
Fighting porn on the internet is not new. It is also a fight that is futile. Several apps have been removed from the app store in the past for similar reasons, but the problem, which is spreading of inappropriate content, still exists.
Removing an app from the Play store is easy but that is also pointless because apps can be downloaded from other websites, and if not that then you must understand that porn can be accessed through the wider and bigger World Wide Web using a myriad of ways. The only way the government possibly can limit the spread of such content online is by following China’s footstep and block all social media apps or multimedia apps in the country and filter the internet for pornography. But is that the route that the government, and we the people of India, want to go take?
Banning TikTok or removing the app from app stores isn’t a very sound solution to combat the spread of inappropriate content online in 2019. There must be some other way to do it. But that other way is harder, with implications that go beyond just the ban on porn.
Even now, when you can’t get TikTok from the official Android store, you can easily get it. For instance, if you Google search, you’ll find various apk links to download the app. And if this is something too much of work for you, search for TikTok on Google Play store and you’ll find innumerable TikTok knockoffs — TikTok Wallpaper, Hot Videos for TikTok, among others – available, which possibly may host similar content.
And TikTok is hardly the only micro-video or video app. There are number of video sharing apps — and do remember that you can also use WhatsApp to share whatever you want to share — available in both App store and Google Play store that work on similar lines as TikTok.
For now, the only silver lining about the whole TikTok issue is it is all “interim”. The final court verdict is yet to come so hopefully in the coming days and weeks we will have more sensible solutions coming to this problem of inappropriate content on TikTok. A bench of the Madras High Court has set April 24 as the next hearing date on the matter.