Fri, Apr 26, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Bytedance gets reprieve in India

‘RIGHT PERSPECTIVE’:The Madras High Court’s interim order to lift a ban on TikTok dispelled a notion that India was adopting draconian oversight similar to that of China


Bytedance Ltd (字節跳動), the world’s most valuable start-up, has been allowed by a court in India to restore access of its popular TikTok video-sharing app to users in one of the Chinese company’s most promising markets.

The Madras High Court on Wednesday in an interim order lifted the ban on the app, which had been blocked by Google and Apple Inc.

TikTok was banned on concerns that the app was exposing children to pornography and other disturbing content.

The court is to come up with a final order after hearing from all involved parties.

“TikTok will update their privacy protection norms according to the court’s order and will address any complaint over content in three to 36 hours,” said K. Neelamegam, a lawyer representing the petitioner. “If TikTok does not meet the conditions set by the court, contempt of court proceedings can be initiated against them.”

The victory for China’s Bytedance, which was last year valued at US$75 billion, also came as a relief for other start-ups hoping to cash in on the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market.

It also dispelled a perception that India was adopting a draconian oversight on such companies, somewhat similar to what firms face in China.

“The court has taken the right perspective,” said Faisal Kawoosa, the founder and chief analyst at Gurugram, India-based researcher techARC. “Any other decision would have had an adverse impact on several other tech platforms.”

Bytedance told the court that the ban denied the right to free speech for millions of the app’s users in India and also caused a loss of about US$600,000 in daily revenue for the company.

Apple and Google had banned new downloads of the app to comply with an earlier court decision.

Bytedance, based in Beijing and founded by Zhang Yiming (張一鳴), said that it has hired many of China’s brightest artificial intelligence experts to develop addictive apps for everything from jokes and news to music videos.

“While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against misuse of the platform has been recognized, the work is never done on our end,” a TikTok spokesman said in a statement. “We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India.”

The company has had more success outside of China than any previous Chinese Internet company — and growth in overseas markets will help the company live up to high expectations when it decides to go public.

In India, TikTok has attracted more than 120 million users thanks to a steady stream of videos with dance moves set to Bollywood music, slapstick humor and jokes in local languages.

After starting Bytedance in 2012, Zhang’s first big hit was news app Jinri Toutiao (今日頭條), or Today’s Headlines, which became China’s largest news site with more than 700 million users.

He launched short-video app Douyin (抖音) in China in 2016 and created the international version, TikTok, the next year. Together, the apps have been installed more than 1 billion times.

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