Statement on the TikTok Ban

  • Yesterday, i.e. on April 3, 2019 the Hon’ble High Court in a public interest litigation passed an interim order banning the download of the social networking application, “TikTok”.
  • We agree that the privacy of children merits urgent legislative protection and this interim order may be an overreach on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

It often seems we are in the throes of a social (media-moral) panic. Within the space of a month we have seen the ban of PUBG in Gujarat by police departments and now the Hon’ble Madras High Court has banned, “TikTok” (refer to report by LiveLaw).

But first, what is, “TikTok”? It is a social networking application that is aimed towards video creation and sharing. The average length of videos ranges from 10-60 seconds. While such a format has been socially critiqued for a range of impacts, the Hon’ble High Court of Madras has passed three harsh directions which merit to be contested.

The first direction prohibits the download of the application, the second prohibits the television telecast of videos created through it and the third directs a response from the Union Government on it’s position to legislate a statute analogous to the Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  Much of this has been done without adequate legal reasoning. While there are several legal arguments to be made against these directions, we are examining whether IFF should approach the Hon’ble Court and offer assistance.

Briefly, we share the concern of the Hon’ble Court on issues of privacy, cyber bullying and addiction. Children deserve legal protection online. This is why we have in the Draft Indian Privacy Code, 2018 made exhaustive provisions with respect to it. However it is important to consider that banning an application and prohibiting will be a clear case of overreach.

We are in the process of conferring with legal counsel and will be taking steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of internet users are considered by the Hon’ble Court.

As with all of IFF’s work, subsequent steps and updates will be informed regularly and transparently.

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