By Alejandro R. Otero
New Delhi, July 10 (efe-epa).- Major influencers and more than 400 million Indian mobile internet users lost their grand diversion in the form of TikTok videos overnight, when the government decided to ban the popular Chinese app that in turn lost its biggest market.
The ban on TikTok and 58 other applications, most of them Chinese, was ordered after a deadly border row between the two countries.
The order translates into a loss of more than $6 billion for ByteDance, the firm that developed TikTok, according to its estimate cited by the Caixin portal.
“National security and the well being of Indian citizens is of utmost priority,” Geet, a popular influencer, told EFE, expressing her “full support” to the Indian government even though the ban deprived her of her 11.3 million followers on the app.
Geet, who defines herself as Asia’s first wheelchair actress, shared educational and motivational videos, talking about her experiences after a car accident in her childhood left her crippled.
“I am still trying to adjust to the change. I spent a lot of my time creating content for TikTok and interacting with my audience. Of course I miss that,” she confessed.
But Geet shares the justification offered by the Indian government on June 29 when it announced the ban, considering the apps harmful to India’s sovereignty, integrity and national security.
The announcement was made by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, citing “emerging threats” in the context of the deadliest border dispute between China and India in 45 years.
Tensions between the two Asian giants increased after a clash on June15 along the border in a remote western Himalayan valley, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and more than 70 wounded.
The border clash led to a diplomatic conflict with both China and India holding one another responsible for the incident.
The Indian government said the danger posed by the applications was with regard to “theft” of users’ personal data and sending them to servers outside India in an unauthorized manner.
The Chinese embassy in New Delhi, in a statement, criticized the measure and termed it as selective and discriminatory, unfair and lacking in transparency, and possibly in violation of World Trade Organization rules.
The view is shared by the social media and technology analyst Vigneswara, who underlined that “if the government has found serious violations by the platforms, they should have been treated under equitous regulatory course.”
“Banning firms without adequate notice period and details will affect future foreign direct investments which are very much needed for employment generation,” Vigneswara told EFE.
TikTok’s India head Nikhil Gandhi announced that he would meet with the authorities to address the matter and argued that his platform was compliant with the Indian law.
In this regard, Geet expressed hope that TikTok would “present its clarifications before the government” and the app would be allowed to function again.
For TikTok, to operate again in India is a priority. The south Asian country represents its main market, accounting for 611 million downloads, or 30 percent of the total, whereas China, its second-largest market, accounts for 196.6 million downloads, according to April data from by US mobile intelligence company Sensor Tower.
Suraj K, a fervent TikTok user, is confident that the app will soon resume and bring back the main diversion, especially during the strict lockdown in the country between late March and early June following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to make a video but when trying to access TikTok, a message appeared saying that it had been banned in India and would no longer work. That’s how I realized because I had not seen the news,” he told EFE.