TikTok removed from app stores following child exploitation investigation

17 Apr 2019

TikTok mobile app logo on app store. Image: josekube /Depositphotos

Chinese video app TikTok has been delisted on Google and Apple app stores in India in the wake of concerns surrounding pornography and child exploitation.

Google and Apple have delisted Chinese video app TikTok from their app stores in India following a court order prohibiting downloads.

The ban comes after an application to the federal government from the Madras high court in southern Tamil Nadu. The court successfully sought to remove the app amid concerns that people were using it for pornographic and child exploitation purposes.

Indian lawmakers argue that TikTok encourages teens and young adults to participate in “cultural degradation”.

The app has already been banned in Bangladesh and was recently handed the largest ever fine for a US case involving data privacy. The company agreed to pay $5.7m and implement new child protection measures following excoriation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over knowingly hosting content made by underage users.

This latest ruling is a huge blow for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, which has been trying to shore up its user numbers, having already added close to 89m users in Q1 2019, 30m of which were in India. It has already been downloaded more than 240m times in the country and reports more than 120m monthly active users.

Speaking to The Verge, a representative from TikTok said the company was working to hiring an officer in India to “better coordinate with law enforcement agencies” and said that there were “robust measures” in place to protect its users. Neither Google nor Apple have made any specific statements on the matter.

TikTok, which is called Douyin in China, has been hailed as the first Chinese social media app to gain significant global traction, even being lauded as “the next Vine”.

Its meteoric growth has been helped in no small part by the gaggle of budding social media stars it has produced, some of whom have more followers than Ariana Grande and many of whom are, critically, underage. At one point in 2018, the app had managed to surpass Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat in number of downloads.

TikTok mobile app logo on app store. Image: josekube/Depositphotos

Updated, 2.07pm, 17 April 2019: This article was amended to clarify that TikTok reports more than 120m monthly active users in India, not 120m daily active users.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic