‘TikTok must address concerns about content to bounce back’

Industry experts say the ban on the video-sharing app will hit its growth but with necessary changes the impact will be short term

TikTok

Video-sharing app TikTok, which has more than half-a-billion users across the globe, has been taken down by tech giants Apple and Google to comply to a ban in India.

The app, which features videos with memes and karaoke-style singing and dancing, claims to have more than 12 million users just in India and around 500 million users worldwide. TikTok owner ByteDance has been eyeing the Indian market for some time. 

We spoke to industry experts about the impact of the ban. 

According to Shradha Agarwal, COO, Grapes Digital, the growth numbers will definitely get impacted. “Parents will now become cautious about not letting their kids use the app. TikTok is already on its toes and has been stating that the ban is temporary. This means they will bring the app back by introducing necessary changes like keeping a tab on pornographic content and ensuring that it does not get uploaded on the app,” she said.  

Shedding light on other aspects of the impact, Gautam Reghunath, EVP & Branch Head, Dentsu Webchutney, Bangalore, said, “TikTok has been growing with incredible momentum all over the world. Considering TikTok’s business model based on advertising and branded content, their revenue growth clearly lagged excitement from an Indian context. In the short term, TikTok still has over 85 million users on the app in India — the length of the ban will clearly impact their long-term prospects. Social media services depend on future growth and revenue optimisation. We think the uncertainty in how the policy is applied is the biggest long-term threat to the company.”

The Supreme Court, which on Monday rejected an appeal by TikTok to suspend the order, is to hear the case again on April 22. The ban was introduced after the Madras High Court pointed out that the app contains pornographic content and is not safe to be used by children.

“Any content uploaded on the app by users should be scanned regularly and must be removed from the app as soon as it infringes the content policies. This will ensure that content that spreads hatred and is inappropriate does not get viral. The users of this app are much younger compared to that of other social platforms,” Agarwal added. 

Backing TikTok, Sumedh Chaphekar, Co-founder, NoFiltr.Group, said, “TikTok is a tremendously powerful platform. A new generation of talent worked extremely hard and took advantage of the platform to create new and innovative pieces of content every day. They further influenced the next generation that looked up to them. We’re glad we could help them on their journey. Having said that, we at Nofiltr stand for empowering creators, regardless of the platforms. We love TikTok and we wish them luck in this situation. We believe they’ll be back soon.”

TikTok has also run into trouble in other parts of the world. After being banned in neighbouring Bangladesh, it was also hit with a large fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children. Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, CEO & Co-founder, Gozoop, spoke about the need to monitor content. “Technology is never the problem but the way it is used can be good or bad. Platforms definitely need to take measures to control offensive or vulgar content. I see this impacting brand campaigns on TikTok in the short term. We were also planning TikTok campaigns for our clients at Gozoop, but right now we will be re-evaluating them. TikTok is a fantastic platform for engagement with a highly engaged audience. We are expecting campaigns to restart as soon as the platform abides by the law.”

Talking about the best strategy forward for TikTok, Reghunath said the app should own up the loopholes and work with the government to reinstate services as soon as possible.

Ankit Nalotia, Founder, Mo Mantra backed a limited ban. “All things considered, to be completely forthright, ban of TikTok was important to a limited degree as it was genuinely affecting the young generation. No question, TikTok had a good piece of the pie in India and unquestionably the ban would affect the organisation to an extent but considering their reach and presence, they will sustain in the market.”
The ban has also drawn attention towards the app, Nalotia pointed out. Though youngsters from Tier 1 and 2 cities were widely using it, the ban will now prompt those from lower-tier cities to also try it out. “People will forget about this ban over time, but having said that TikTok needs to find a way to expel objectionable content from the platform to come back with a bang. Everything will work to support them if an effective control system is in place for filtering content before it finds its way to the app,” Nalotia added.  

Meanwhile, TikTok has issued a statement saying, “We have faith in the Indian judicial system. Unfortunately, due to an interim court order, the TikTok app has been temporarily taken down from online app stores as of April 17, 2019. However, this interim ban does not affect hundreds of millions of existing users of the app.”

Court Order 

Talking about the court order, Petal Chandhok, Partner, & Aditya Singh Rathore, Associate, at Trust Legal, Advocates & Consultants, said “The High Court of Judicature at Madras at Madurai came strongly against the immensely popular social media video sharing platform namely TikTok (erstwhile Musical.ly), owned and operated by Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd. of China, to protect the young tender children from becoming cyber/online victims and passed an interim order on April 3, 2019, prohibiting the download and usage of the mobile application throughout the nation. Consequently, TikTok moved the Supreme Court, wherein a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjeev Khanna refused to intervene and grant any relief to TikTok.

“In another development, on April 16, 2019, the High Court of Judicature at Madras at Madurai appointed Senior Advocate Arvind Datar as amicus curiae to examine the implications of the mobile application. The future of TikTok in one of its key market, i.e. India, is uncertain as in furtherance of the order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras at Madurai on April 3, 2019, the government of India has taken steps and directed Google and Apple to take down the mobile application from their respective platforms,” they added.

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