June 23, 2019

Tik Tok Tick

I never imagined in my wildest spirals, that one day I’d write something defending “TikTok”, but hey, the reality is stranger, stranger than fiction! Here we are.

So yup, TikTok is facing a ban in India as of this writing. And as relieving as it sounds, it’s a huge deal for the foundation of free speech. Let’s go through the timeline, as the events took place.


JANUARY 01

  • Tamil Politician S. Ramadoss asked the State Government, TikTok to be banned for “cultural degradation”.
  • Argued that it leads to sexual perversity and distractions.

FEBRUARY 11

  • Tamil Nadu I.T minister says, will seek a ban on TikTok for
  • degrading culture
  • encouraging pornography
  • Minister even compared the app with the infamous “Blue Whale” mess.
    (highlighting how ill-equipped and incapable are our legislators when it comes to digital reality and the internet).

APRIL 01–03

  • Advocate MuthuKumar filed a plea at Madras HC, highlighting that TikTok be banned for
  • Circulation of Pornographic Content
  • Exposure of kids to disturbing content
  • Safety and Mental health issues.
  • And (obviously) “ cultural degradation “
    *Interestingly, the petition doesn’t quote any legal provisions and simply relies on ill-supported assumptions for asking the court to ban the Chinese application. *

As highlighted by SLFC

“A quick reading of the order indicates that the court has not relied on prevailing judicial or legal principles on free speech, censorship and intermediary liability in arriving at the said order. Based on one-sided averments, the court has taken recourse to social moralityand endorsed the remarkably overbroad language of the petition which says that the app promotes “degrading culture and encourages pornography besides causing pedophiles and explicit disturbing content, social stigma and medical health issues between teens.” The bench goes on to assert that “nobody can be pranked or shocked or being made a subject of mockery by any third party and it would amount to violation of privacy”. The court further affirmed that addictive apps like TikTok spoil the future and the minds of youngsters.”

APRIL 15

  • SC refuses to stay the ban, saying the matter is ongoing in the HC.

APRIL 16

  • The application goes off the Google Play and Apple Store.

Although the existing users can still use social media, new downloads have been banned from the stores and Main Stream TV media has been told to not broadcast any content from TikTok.

Now let's try and break down the ill-constructed arguments/concerns.
Why the application should be banned?

CIRCULATION OF PORNOGRAPHIC CONTENT

  • Come on man, that is seriously lame. And OBVIOUSLY banning isn’t the right fit in here. There are things called “community guidelines” and “age restrictions” to tackle with this. You can simply ask the TikTok folks to create a better policy regarding it.

SECURITY CONCERNS FOR MINORS.

LEADS TO SEXUAL PERVERSITY.

  • Um, yea that makes no sense.

CULTURAL DEGRADATION.

  • lol

HARM TO PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH SURROUNDING THE USE OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA.

(yup, physical harm, the petition literally quotes accidents and deaths of people trying to create content using the application)

  • Well, excessive use or anything of that matter, is totally the choice of the human, it is no one's business to tell them, what should be used for how long.
  • And if the use is causing any sort of mental health harm, then there’s a need for better Digital Wellbeing lessons, better Mental Health Institution, and better Digital Literacy amongst the common public.

TikTok at the end is a Social Media Platform, and there are creators who put their lives and soul into the content they create. There is a lot of cringe-worthy content, but yea whatever. The ban is a complete overreaction and not even legal in certain terms. It violates the idea of free speech. Banning a Social Media platform is a BIG deal. It’s not fair to the creators, it’s not fair to the consumers.

To talk about “cultural degradation”, it’s a recurring and at this point a comic argument, I don’t know what idea of “culture” do these people have in their heads. Culture is basically, social behavior, and the behavior of the society is prone to evolution, a continuous process. There is no point in “preserving a culture”, cause that hinders growth. It is common for humans to act this way when things change, humans have a history of resisting change. They fear what they don’t understand, and in this case the outdated pack of lawmakers crafting and shaping something that they don’t understand and at the same time, fear.

via GIPHY

The idea of “Bans”, and the rate at which things being “banned” is getting normalized, is alarming. I’d even say that is what is “degrading our culture”. A section of the society is getting intolerant of almost everything, and another section, ignorant.

The order banning TikTok violates the fundamental right of free speech as enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

“The grounds for prohibiting the use of the TikTok app does not fall within the purview of Article 19(2) (which provides for constitutional restrictions on free speech), but instead seems to be based on a skewed sense of morality, which cannot be a guiding principle for constitutional interpretation.”

via — SLFC

TikTok, developed by Bytedance, has a huge user base in the country, India makes up about 40% of the users. TikTok, on the other hand, argues that it has robust policies for promoting the wellbeing of the users and is ready to work on improving them.

Social Media platforms reflect the nature of the society, we have quite interesting examples as in what happens to a society when the Internet and Social media come under extreme monitoring and censorship. Ask the Chinese. The increasing attempts of the lawmakers to control the Internet are a threatening pattern. May it be the race to the top for “Most Internet Shutdowns” or be the recent Porn Ban. Diss Tracks are getting banned! I mean come on. Ignorance is gonna cost us.

Look out.