Pulling the plug

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In the aftermath of the TikTok ban Mishi Choudhary, the founder of Software Freedom Law Centre (India), says the government must enact pro-privacy legislation that protects private data from tech companies, regardless of their origin

Prior to 29 June, it was hard to avoid the vibrant watermarked logo of TikTok. Whether it was a forwarded WhatsApp video featuring a young couple energetically dancing to a Bollywood track in the background, or young women tying a pencil bun to the tune of Italian protest folk song, Bella Ciao, or other TikTok videos that made their way to traditional social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, it was hard to miss that the app was rewriting social media.

Mishi Choudhary Tiktok ban
Mishi Choudhary

All of that came to a screeching halt with an order issued by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) invoking its power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.

Via this order, the government decided to disallow the use of 59 apps, including TikTok, used in both mobile and non-mobile internet-enabled devices. The ministry stated: “In view of information available [the apps] are engaged in activities that are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.” The order also stated that the ministry received “several representations” from citizens regarding the security of data and risk to privacy, as well as bipartisan concerns expressed by members of parliament regarding the use of these apps.

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