NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) to closely monitor the functioning of popular Chinese app TikTok in the wake of complaints in India and controversies across the globe, people familiar with the matter said.
PMO’s direction to MeitY earlier this week came after the nodal ministry had said the app was in compliance with all requirements, including those on traceability of messages proposed in the yet-tobe-notified intermediary guidelines, the people said.
MeitY is also believed to have sent TikTok’s detailed explanation to the PMO regarding safety of user data, the company’s adherence with the laws of the land, the removal of 6 million objectionable videos from Indian users and plans to invest $1 billion in the country.
“TikTok confirms to adhere with the due diligence process mandated under the Intermediary Guidelines 2011 of the IT Act 2000,” MeitY said in its letter to the PMO, according to one of the persons cited above. “It has appointed a grievance officer operating out of India. In our view, TikTok meets the requirements of the intermediary rules including traceability requirements proposed in the recent draft amendments to the intermediary guidelines 2018.”
Once the intermediary guidelines come into play, it will be easier to keep a check on not just TikTok but other apps such as WhatsApp, MeitY officials said.
Before the latest move, the PMO had previously communicated with MeitY regarding concerns over TikTok. This was in the wake of several MPs highlighting global controversies including the $5.7 million fine levied on the app by the US Federal Trade Commission for collecting information on minors and how the app poses a serious threat to India.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had also raised concerns regarding the app with the PM.
TIKTOK IS NOT AVAILABLE IN CHINA: BYTEDANCE
It had alleged that the social media platform was being used for antinational activities.
MeitY then wrote to TikTok last week, seeking responses on initiatives being taken to check objectionable content and to comply with Indian laws. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, responded within a day – July 11— on how it was tackling issues of safety, data privacy and objectionable content. The company also detailed its grievance redressal mechanism.
“TikTok seems to be ticking all the right boxes,” a person familiar with ByteDance’s response to the government told ET. “In fact, in their response, they have even highlighted how they are the only social media app which has an Age Gate, a feature which allows parents to control the app, (mitigate) risk and (offer) a warning tag. Neither Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram or even homegrown ShareChat have these features.”
ByteDance, in response to a specific query regarding data safety of Indian users, underscored its non-Chinese origins.
TikTok evolved from US-based Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in 2017 and renamed. Also, Tik-Tok is not available in China.
“TikTok doesn’t operate in People’s Republic of China and their government has no access to TikTok’s users’ data, nor does it have any partnership with China Telecom,” the firm has said in a letter to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The company has pledged to invest $1 billion in India on employment generation, building data infrastructure, online education and technology development. It has further clarified that Indian users’ data is stored in the US and Singapore. Moreover, ByteDance said it had removed over six million videos that violated it’s community guidelines, following an exhaustive review of content from users in India.
Source: Economic Times